By HOWARD BALABAN
Medina Journal-Register —
ALBION — What started as a small operation in one woman's kitchen will soon fill a portion of the former JP Morgan Chase building.
At a press conference Monday afternoon, CEO Jodi Gaines announced that her Claims Recovery Financial Services (CRFS) will soon consolidate its operations in the vacated facility — and take on 150 additional employees.
Employees who've been working at the company's Medina site, in the Olde Pickle Factory, will be relocated to Albion. The move should begin in December and be completed next March, Gaines said.
With the move, "We will also be diversifying our services to create even more jobs, and I can enthusiastically tell you that there are 150 newly available positions at CRFS and we are actively recruiting," she said.
With 598 area residents on its payroll, CRFS is already the largest employer in Orleans County. It also employs about 60 people in San Antonio, Texas, and has 11 independent contractors.
Acquisition of the Chase space will allow CRFS to fast-track a much-needed company expansion, Gaines said. Recently, 55 new jobs were filled, all by former Chase employees.
Gaines started CRFS, a claims processing service, in 2002, with one employee and one client. A decade later, while it's outgrown every one of its multiple offices, it hasn't outgrown its roots, Gaines said.
"We began here in Orleans County, we're staying here, and the best is yet to come."
Within five years, Gaines said, she hopes to see CRFS increase its local employment count to around 900.
Roger Hungerford, who owns both the Chase building and the Olde Pickle Factory, supported Gaines' plan to consolidate CRFS operations in Albion, she said.
Local and state officials turned out to the Monday press conference and praised the work of Gaines and CRFS.
"Jodi Gaines has redefined the American dream," David Callard, Orleans County Legislature chairman, said. "Her success demonstrates how a grass-roots micro-business can become a major employer and nationally recognized success story."
CRFS's move "means jobs, jobs and more jobs," Chris Zeltmann, representative of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., noted. After Chase confirmed its intent to vacate the Albion call center, Schumer worked to get CRFS immediate access to soon-to-be-displaced Chase employees.
State Assembly member Steve Hawley, R-Batavia, said Gaines' announcement is cause for celebration.
"I'm happy to see a member of the community succeed. It helps out the local economy and it's overwhelmingly positive news for job seekers," he said.
CRFS's expansion will be underwritten by Empire State Development, which gave the business a $400,000 capital grant and wage tax credits worth $472,500; and the Orleans Economic Development Agency, which granted a $250,000 low-interest loan from the Orleans Revolving Loan Fund and sales tax relief on new equipment purchases.