By Geri Gibbons, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance, having moved its headquarters to downtown Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square, is now in the process of filling about 170 jobs it says have been made possible by the move.
The project, which began late last year, is well underway with many departments having moved to the building at 39 Public Square, which Westguard Insurance Co. purchased for just over $5 million in November, according to Guard officials.
Some departments still remain at the company’s old headquarters a short walk away on North River Street, but will be transitioning to the new building in the next few months.
GUARD’s annual sales have grown sixfold to approximately $1.2 billion since 2007, and the insurer had run out of space for its more than 675 employees, most of them working in five different spots in the downtown.
Wilkes-Barre, wanting to retain the company, facilitated a $1 million Local Share Account grant to help the project. The state added another $855,000 grant.
“The financial assistance offered by the commonwealth and the city was key in offsetting the increased costs of locating a major corporate facility in a downtown district as well as being competitive with incentives from other areas,” Sy Foguel, chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We’re very happy to anchor our operations in the downtown.”
Mayor Tony George; state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township; state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Wilkes-Barre; and other officials have worked toward anchoring the business in Wilkes-Barre, as a source of economic stimulus and job creation.
City Administrator Ted Wampole has said the retention of the business in the downtown area was a benefit to the city, creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
“We think it’s a part of what going to save our financial situation,” Wampole said in an Times Leader interview in November.