Hailed as “one of the most significant corporate location decisions for our region in the last decade” by local business chief Karen Martin, Scarborough is thrilled with Sun Life Financial’s decision to open a new disability benefits center in town.

The move, which was announced Monday, could bring an estimated 200 new jobs to southern Maine and is a huge boon to not only Scarborough and its Roundwood Business Park, but also to the Greater Portland region.

Sun Life will locate its new Center for Healthy Work, with a focus on disability benefits, in the former Cole Haan headquarters, according to Martin, executive director of Scarborough Economic Development Corp.

She said, “this high-end space provides excellent locational advantages, with easy access to I-95, the airport, restaurants and other services.”

Cole Haan, a fashion label founded in Chicago in 1928, makes shoes, bags, accessories and outerwear and first moved its headquarters from Falmouth to Scarborough in 2011 and from Scarborough to Greenland, N.H., in late 2013.

“This action by (Sun Life) brings an estimated 200 new, high-paying jobs to the region (and) the core competencies of the financial services industry are well suited to our labor force,” Martin added.

And, Town Manager Tom Hall said, “we are pleased that (Sun Life Financial) selected Scarborough as the home of (its) new disability claims operation center, but the real winner is the Greater Portland area as this is further confirmation of our prominence in the disability claims industry and that we are competitive in attracting high quality jobs.”

In its own press release announcing its plans, Sun Life said its new Center for Healthy Work would “tap into (the) strong base of disability benefits expertise” found in southern Maine.

“The Sun Life Center for Healthy Work is a key next step in continuing our success in disability benefits,” said Dan Fishbein, president of Sun Life U.S. “The Portland area has become the center of excellence for disability expertise and Sun Life is looking forward to working with this pool of strong talent to continue our innovative approach to disability benefits management.”

Founded 150 years ago, the insurance giant said it’s had a “long established presence in New England,” including the U.S. headquarters in Wellesley, Mass., and offices in Windsor, Ct., and Portsmouth, N.H.

“The state-of-the-art office in Greater Portland will enable Sun Life to showcase its superior integrated disability management experience, including claims management, vocational rehabilitation, dynamic assistance technologies and other innovative return-to-work solutions,” the company said in its press release.

The Center for Healthy Work also promotes Sun Life’s “Work is Healthy” philosophy, which focuses on why getting people back to work is important from both a sociological and clinical perspective, the company added.

According to its press release, Sun Life is a leader in group employee benefits, including life, disability, dental, voluntary and medical stop loss products. It currently has more than 28,000 employees worldwide.

Martin said that, “While retention of existing employers is the biggest share of what we do as economic developers, attraction of new companies to the state, the region and to Scarborough is extremely important, and, as we see in this instance, can be a big success.”

Now that the decision to locate in Scarborough has been made, she said that both Scarborough and the Greater Portland region would reach out to help the company acclimate to its new digs.

“We look forward to helping the company in any way we can,” Martin said. “Whether that’s a tour of potential neighborhoods for new employees or assistance with any permitting, we will be available.”

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