2002-07-25 / Front Page

State Farm will close its Westlake Village offices

By John Loesing
Acorn Staff Writer

By John Loesing Acorn Staff Writer

Like many corporate employees, the 700 workers of State Farm Insurance in the city of Westlake Village pride themselves with loyalty and longevity.

Denise Fiore has been with State Farm for 16 years, but last week she received word that her employer is closing shop.

State Farm Insurance Cos., the largest U.S. auto and home insurer, announced the closing of its Westlake operations center at 31303 W. Agoura Road as part of a statewide consolidation that expects to save the company $69 million.

Within the next 18 to 24 months, in fact, the company plans to shutter two-thirds of its 66 California offices, including Costa Mesa, which has 525 employees.

Still a good neighbor, but no longer there.

"We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know which regional offices they were closing," said Fiore, a fire insurance underwriter. "That was always hanging over our head."

The Bloomington, Ill.-based company hopes the reduction in offices will cut costs and raise profits after losing a reported $5 billion in 2001.

"Our significant investment in technology over the last decade allows us to bring better and more efficient service to our customers, while at the same time reducing our operational expenses," Dale Nowell, California operations vice president, said in a statement.

Company officials said the restructuring wouldn’t result in the immediate loss of jobs.

"This is not about employee reductions," said Robert Mitchell, a State Farm spokesman. "I think that’s what make the story unique, the fact that the people who are going to want to travel or who are flexible will have some options."

Mitchell said the Westlake Village employees likely will be offered jobs at State Farm offices in Bakersfield, Rohnert Park and a new Thousand Oaks/Simi Valley location that’s scheduled to open.

Fiore, who lives in Newbury Park, expects to be offered a transfer, but said her husband owns a local plumbing business. She doubted that she’d move.

"I’ll have to be looking for another job here probably," she said.

State Farm said the company-owned offices scheduled for closing would be sold.

"It’s unfortunate it’s happening for a couple of reasons," said Gary Wartik, manager of economic development for the city of Thousand Oaks. "One it’s going to add a fair amount of office space to the existing office inventory. I’m sure the property owners are not really happy."

State Farm employs 79,200 workers across the United States and Canada and has more than 70 million auto, home, life and health insurance policies in effect.

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