By Jerry Lynott, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — The city-owned Hotel Sterling property remains in play as a potential location for a new building to serve as headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance.
The company, owned by a subsidiary of billionaire investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., employs approximately 300 people in its offices across the street from the lot at the corner of West Market and North River streets. It has been in discussions with the city about the property.
Wilkes-Barre has already secured a $1 million gaming grant from the state to assist with the estimated $50 million project to consolidate the company’s offices and add up to 500 new jobs.
Ted Wampole, city administrator, said Friday the city has not received any formal indication of where the company is in its decision-making process other than it’s doing its “due diligence.”
“We just sent them more documents this week,” Wampole said, adding the paperwork fine-tunes some things. “They’re making sure when they’re told something, that’s exactly what’s in place.”
The company has given no specific time frame for when it will notify the city of its decision.
“They tell us it should be in the very near future,” said Wampole.
Earlier in the week, Bob Thomas, a spokesman for Berkshire Hathaway Guard, said there was nothing new to report.
“The process of due diligence continues as we explore all options to meet the group’s long-term space requirements and accommodate expected growth in an efficient manner,” Thomas said.
Guard’s interest in the property was disclosed in January, when city council approved a resolution to apply for a $1 million grant through the Local Share Account program administered by the state and funded by gambling revenue. The grant, awarded in March, would be passed through to Guard by the city for the expansion.
The company has also been looking in other states and at other sites, including the 10-story Wilkes-Barre Center on Public Square.
But the former Sterling property at the western gateway to the city is in a Keystone Opportunity Zone that comes with tax exemptions until 2024. It has been an empty lot used for parking since the city condemned and demolished the former hotel in 2013.