Buffalo, Where The Debt Collectors Do Roam

Who would’ve guessed that credit card debt and the subprime meltdown would be the saving grace for one of New York’s decaying cities? Buffalo now hosts over 100 collection agencies that employ 5,200 people who spend their days prodding delinquent consumers to pay their bills. The cottage industry relies on the “strong work ethic [and] even-handed temperament” of Western New Yorkers, who once powered long-departed industrial giants like Kodak and General Electric.

“Within the industry, everyone knows about Buffalo,” said Aaron Siegel, chief executive of Franklin Credit Solutions, an investment firm here that buys debt from lenders and farms it out to collection agencies to pursue.

Demand for collectors is so strong, Mr. Siegel said, that good ones “can walk out the door and get another job that afternoon.”

[…]

As an added benefit, Mr. Costa and other executives said, people in Buffalo tend to be loyal, so turnover is only 20 percent after the first 90 days, compared with 50 percent or more at agencies in other parts of the country.

On average, experienced collectors in western New York earn $32,000 a year; homes in the region can cost less than $100,000.

The downside, executives say, is that the best collectors — some of whom get performance bonuses that boost their salaries to $150,000 a year — will quit with little notice if they get a better offer.

Collection Agencies Add Scarce Jobs in Hard-Hit Region [NYT]
(Photo: Getty)