Centene moves in, brings more than 300 jobs

Published on Monday, 16 December 2013 23:27 - Written by DAYNA WORCHEL dworchel@tylerpaper.com

A company expected to bring more than 300 high-paying jobs, with benefits such as an on-site daycare center for employee’s children and an in-house cafeteria, had its official Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting on Monday.

Centene Corp. employees moved in to its new 50,000-square-foot facility at 3258 Earl Campbell Parkway on Nov. 7.

A host of city and state officials, along with corporate and community leaders, turned out for the event Monday at the company’s 25-acre campus.

The company processes Medicare and Medicaid claims for more than 3 million members nationwide. Centene is the nation’s fourth-largest Medicaid manager, providing programs and related services to the rising number of underinsured and uninsured individuals.

“This is a welcome boost to the community — we are so excited,” Mayor Barbara Bass told the group. She said it was the city’s half-cent sales tax that was used to construct Earl Campbell Parkway, which has paved the way for new businesses. The opening of Centene is a part of the city’s Industry Growth Initiative, which focuses on a more innovative and diverse economy with less emphasis on manufacturing, Mayor Bass said.

The Missouri-based corporation announced in May 2012 that it would open its third U.S. processing center in Tyler. In return for a $15 million investment from Centene, to include the land, building and furniture, the City Council agreed in 2012 to join the Tyler Reinvestment Zone Committee in offering a five-year tax abatement as a gesture of support for the company.

Gov. Rick Perry announced in May 2012 that the state was investing $1.3 million through the Texas Enterprise Fund in Centene Corp. to open the center in Tyler.

Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, called the new jobs a “Christmas present” to the community. “I care about the more than 300 families who will have good jobs,” he said.

And Michael Neidorff, president and chief operating officer of Centene, said his company had always had a good relationship with Texas. “We have a solid relationship which will only get better with time,” he said.

Tyler Junior College President Dr. Mike Metke said in August 2012 that TJC joined in the tax abatement as part of the incentive for Centene to locate here. The company had its choice of many cities throughout the country, but chose Tyler, he added. With the agreement, TJC will forego about $61,632 in taxes over a five-year period, officials said. “We’re real excited about having them come to Tyler,” Metke had said, adding that Centene is a great fit for the community because they process health care claims.

Officials estimate the city of Tyler essentially would defer $156,649 over the life of the five-year agreement. Incentives approved Wednesday amount to about $2,700 per employee per job, so long as the agreement remains in effect at least two years. If the company sheds those positions, it must repay any incentives offered, in full, officials have said.

Ed Gallegos, vice president of operations for Centene, said the company is still looking for registered nurses, IT staff, business analysts and data analysts. The positions pay from $50,000 to $70,000 per year with paid health benefits and tuition reimbursement. The company also offers an on-site day care center for its employees children from ages 6 weeks to 5 years. The day care center is expected to open Jan. 2.

Tom Mullins, Tyler Economic Development Council president and chief executive officer, had said that Centene representatives visited several Texas cities, including San Antonio, Abilene, Killeen and Waco, in search of a suitable location.

“Centene told us when they first came to Tyler, they had a good reaction to the community,” Mullins said.

The Tyler Economic Development Council owns and manages 150 acres within the Tyler Industrial/Business Park near the intersection of West Loop 323 and Robertson Road, an area filled with manufacturing, office, distribution and retail businesses. The development council had extended South Bennett Avenue in 2009 so it would intersect with the new parkway, using cash from half-cent sales tax funds.

Centene officials saw potential in the area near the new Earl Campbell Parkway for building a 25-acre campus that would be close to walking trails and amenities.