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Last updated: Tue. Feb. 12, 2013 - 09:05 am EDT

Insurance expansion called key

Brotherhood says addition will dovetail with new jobs

A $15 million office building expansion will have a local insurance company poised for future growth if city planners approve the project.

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co. appeared before the Fort Wayne Plan Commission on Monday. The insurer sought approval for the construction of 62,000-square-foot addition at its 6400 Brotherhood Way headquarters, near Interstate 69 and Coldwater Road. A skywalk will connect the addition to the present location.

Vice President and Treasurer Matthew Hirschy said after Monday’s public hearing that increased business is driving the expansion that will rise on the west side of the existing building where 266 workers reside. Brotherhood Mutual provides coverage for churches and religious groups. The company sells insurance policies to cover losses associated with property, liability, workers’ compensation, commercial auto and foreign travel.

An influx of new policyholders in Western states is behind much of the boom, officials said.

“We’re just growing,” Hirschy said. “We will have capacity for 170 new workers, but will hire 102 over the next four years.”

The 96-year-old company began in Grabill. It sells insurance to more than 40,000 churches and related ministries in 43 states and the District of Columbia.

Brotherhood has already started hiring. The firm is filling positions in finance, underwriting, marketing and information technology. Wages are likely to average $50,000 a year. Existing workers make $56,500 a year. In December, the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance provided figures that suggested a higher amount, but a Brotherhood spokeswoman said those salaries included out-of-town employees with higher wages.

The city of Fort Wayne is on tap to phase in property taxes on the project, which would save $1.8 million over 10 years. Brotherhood Mutual also has been offered a seven-year, $1 million incentives packages by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., WorkOne Northeast and the city of Fort Wayne.

There were no public objections, although the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority submitted stipulations based on the insurer’s proximity to Smith Field. Among its conditions are that all cranes not exceed 45 feet above ground, exterior lighting be shielded and vegetation and plant growth be controlled to prevent wildlife and birds from posing a threat to aircraft.

The plan commission will vote on the project Monday.

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