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Principal Will Locate 50 Jobs Here Employment Could Grow To 200, With $5 Million Annual Payroll

The Principal Financial Group will employ as many as 50 workers by year-end at a new Spokane pension office, company and local officials announced Monday.

By the end of 1997, said Spokane Area Economic Development Council President Bob Cooper, the pension office could employ 200, all but a handful hired locally.

“This is a multimillion-dollar hit for Spokane,” he said, estimating the annual payroll at $5 million.

Jobs with The Principal will pay between $17,000 and $34,000 annually, he said.

Although Principal’s decision to put the pension office in Spokane has been known since October, the company waited until Monday to officially announce the details.

The office, to be located in the Rock Pointe Tower, will be the first for Principal’s pension group outside of Iowa, said Judy DeBord, who will direct the operation.

She said The Principal, the 10th largest provider of life insurance in the United States by assets, looked at cities in California, Oregon and Washington before selecting Spokane.

The city won out, she said, because of its similarity in size to Des Moines, The Principal’s headquarters; the quality and work ethic of employees; and training made available through the EDC, Community Colleges of Spokane and a grant from US West.

“It’s an easy transition for us to make,” DeBord said.

Ned Burmeister, a director of pension operations, said good airline links and cooperation from local officials also weighed in Spokane’s favor.

In return, he said, The Principal strives to be a good community citizen.

Des Moines employees were told of the site selection in October, DeBord said. Forty signed up for the chance to be one of 12 who would be chosen for a core team that will be used to train Spokane hires.

DeBord and two other executives will manage the Spokane office.

The biking and canoeing enthusiast said she has been with The Principal 22 years, 19 in the pension area. She will leave a position as assistant director of administration, with responsibility for 300 employees, to take the Spokane job.

DeBord said the Rock Pointe space can accommodate as many as 65 employees. Interviews will start in February, she said, with the first hires likely to start in April.

Job information can be obtained through the EDC or by calling The Principal at 324-7700 when the number takes effect in February.

Operations will include underwriting, contract writing and plan administration. The initial focus will be 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, with defined benefit plans to be added later, DeBord said.

Between 10 percent and 15 percent of the company’s pension business is done with 2,500 West Coast employers, DeBord said, and the company wanted an unit in the same time zone as those customers.

The Principal already has life insurance sales and residential lending offices in Spokane, which together employ 150, DeBord said.

The Principal is the third firm in recent months to announce plans to come to Spokane.

In October, the Student Loan Marketing Assoc. said it had leased space in downtown Spokane for a regional loan service center that will eventually employ 200.

Last month, Egghead Software said it was putting a customer service center at Liberty Lake that will provide another 200 jobs by the end of the year.

Tags: business

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