Poplar Bluff-based First Choice Insurance Agency closed its Springfield office this summer after less than six months in operation.
The office that opened Jan. 3 at 2760 S. Kansas Expressway, inside The Bank of Missouri, closed in late June, said Steve Baratta, former vice president of employee benefits for First Choice, who launched the location.
“It was a complete surprise that after a short, six-month period, they decided to close the office when, in fact, my network development was actually producing results,” Baratta said.
First Choice Insurance President Steve Phillips disputed the claims, saying the Springfield office is not closed and that employees still staffed it. He declined to say who managed it or the number of employees. Phillips said Baratta was terminated, but declined to say why.
The Springfield office phone for First Choice Insurance is no longer operational.
Springfield Business Journal’s visit to the branch showed no First Choice Insurance signage or visible operations. Bank of Missouri employees at the branch said the First Choice office was no longer open, and that the closest location was in Poplar Bluff.
Baratta said he stopped working at the office because “in closing the office, there was no longer an employment opportunity.” He said he was recruited from south Florida for the First Choice job, and is now seeking other employment opportunities in Springfield.
First Choice — a sister company to The Bank of Missouri — offers business and individual insurance coverage, including group health, property and casualty, and personal lines, such as home and auto insurance. Its website lists offices in Poplar Bluff, Cape Girardeau, Caruthersville, Columbia and Perryville.
The website indicates the company continues to serve the Springfield area, and Phillips said the company is still conducting business in the Queen City and Branson markets.
Phillips started First Choice in 1989 while working as a welder on Corvette mufflers in Dexter, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.
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The move would come with a new property tax levied on residents of regional school districts.
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