State Farm’s consolidation works for one mobile family

Thursday, December 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:06 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chris Coon’s family has moved eight times in the last 13 years, enough to deter most people from ever moving again. Yet, when the State Farm auto claims manager and his clan were offered a chance last summer to relocate to Columbia, they jumped all over it.

“Out of the offices in the central zone I don’t think State Farm could have picked a more family-oriented and culturally diverse and interesting place than Columbia,” Chris Coon said. “There is just something about this town.”

The Coons’ transfer was part of a consolidation of State Farm’s five-state central zone, which includes Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. After two years of negotiations, 150 State Farm employees have transferred and are settling into Columbia, said Vanda Easley, State Farm spokeswoman for Missouri.

Despite Louisiana state officials’ $33 million offer to State Farm in February to make Monroe, La., the new consolidated operations center, the company chose Columbia instead. Easley said all levels of employees were transferred to Columbia.

“The majority of those are from claims, but some are from the underwriting department and general departments such as administrative services,” Easley said. “We have a comprehensive relocation package.”

Employees who transferred received assistance from a relocation coordinator. In addition, State Farm paid for the families to visit Columbia in March.

Coon said State Farm gave him a relocation bonus, paid for the move to Columbia from Monroe, and offered a purchase program if his house did not sell in an appropriate amount of time.

Once most of the transfers were completed, State Farm looked to Columbia’s current residents to fill out the paraprofessional and support-level positions at their operations center on South Providence Road.

“Currently, we have hired about 100 people in Columbia,” Easley said. “We are still actively hiring additional employees.”

Original estimates in February indicated that State Farm would bring 300 jobs to Columbia. So far, 150 people have been transferred and 100 new jobs have been created. With these additions, State Farm now employs 1,020 at its Columbia offices.

Easley said most of the transfers to Columbia have already occurred, but a few will continue through summer 2005.

Coon and his wife, Julie, and children, Courtney, 9, and Jonathan, 5, toured Columbia with 240 of their State Farm colleagues and families in March.

After their visit, the family placed Columbia at the top of their list for transfer. One main reason was the proximity to medical treatment in St. Louis for Jonathan, whose internal organs are reversed due to a condition called situs inversus totalis. The Coons moved to Columbia the first week of August and have since enjoyed local attractions such as Mizzou sports, the MKT trail, the corn maze and the Twilight Festival.

“My son just wandered around (the Twilight Festival) with eyes as big as saucers looking at all the different people and the pets,” Chris Coon said.

“We have enjoyed having things to do with the children,” Julie Coon said. “And being in the central part of the state, you can go to several different areas and still have lots of fun family things to do, which we did not have in Monroe.” Easley said most of the transfers to Columbia have already occurred, but a few will continue into the summer.

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