In the presence of some of New York State's most powerful politicians, Chemical Banking Corp. announced last week that it would keep its card processing center on Long Island after its merger with Chase Manhattan Corp.

The Hicksville facility, with 2,700 employees, played host to a press conference that included speeches by Chemical chairman Walter Shipley, Chase chairman Thomas Labrecque, New York Gov. George Pataki, Attorney General Dennis Vacco, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

More than 100 employees, cited for excellent service, attended the meeting and cheered the decision.

In recent years Citibank and other leading New York banks have moved their credit card operations to states such as South Dakota and Delaware, which lured them with favorable regulations and tax rates.

Mr. Shipley said Gov. Pataki, who took office this year, has "improved the climate of doing business in New York."

The banker cited regulatory improvements over the past several years, Gov. Pataki's tax reforms, and a work force capable of preserving "New York's status as the world's premier financial center."

Mr. Labrecque added that the post-merger Chase Manhattan would remain committed to its back-office facilities in Metrotech Center, a Brooklyn development with about 5,000 employees, making it the largest private- sector employer in that borough. Chemical has that status on Long Island.

The new Chase will retain Chemical's New York bank charter, the chairmen said.

Gov. Pataki, as if stumping on the campaign trail, hailed the decision, projecting growth and prosperity for the soon-to-be third-largest issuer in the nation. "I want to come back when it's the largest (card issuer) and there are 5,000 jobs," he said.

He said New York would continue its effort to "reduce the regulatory burden that drives jobs out of the state."

Both the governor and Mr. Shipley said no financial incentive package had been awarded to the banks to influence their decision.

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