USF&G PLANS TO SPEND MILLIONS TO GROW IN MISS.

USF&G PLANS TO SPEND MILLIONS TO GROW IN MISS.

United States Fidelity and Guaranty Co. is planning a $15 million expansion in Mississippi.

Baltimore-based USF&G, which now has an office in Jackson, will add an office in Meridian, company officials said."Mississippi has been USF&G's most important state for nearly 100 years," said Warren Coupland, executive vice president. "It is our largest market, represents over 7 percent of our business, and produced over $180 million in premium in 1992.

"Now that USF&G is expanding its customer base with new products and services, it makes sense to establish our new company in Mississippi," Mr. Coupland said.

In addition to founding a Mississippi-based branch of the company, Mr. Coupland said USF&G plans to spend $2.3 million for remodeling the Jackson office and building the Meridian office.

State Insurance Commissioner George Dale said the expansion plans mean economic growth for the state.

"Frankly I just don't think Mississippi in the past has made enough efforts to try to encourage insurance companies to make a commitment to expand and/or locate in Mississippi," he said.

Mr. Dale said that when he talked to insurance company executives around the country, many often said they had not considered moving to the state

because of a lack of interest by state officials.

"I think that's a sham and a disgrace. We have attempted to do something about that," said the commissioner.

He said he hopes things will change with the appointment of a study committee by Lt. Gov. Eddie Briggs. The committee will look into the feasibility of giving some breaks to insurance companies with plans to relocate in the state.