“It's been the kind of community we look for,” Centene Corp. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Neidorff said, adding that the community works together and has a strong work ethic. He also said it was Tyler's people, the reception they got from everyone and Tyler Junior College being here.
“It's the kind of environment in which I think we can both thrive,” he said.
Founded as a single health plan in 1984, Centene Corp. provides health care-related services to organizations and individuals. The Tyler facility will be a part of the company's national managed care system, processing claims from physicians, hospitals and other health care providers.
Neidorff said Centene started serving Texas with 1,800 members in El Paso. The company now serves more than 900,000 people in the state. “We think it's only right that these jobs cover the memberships that we have in Texas,” he said.
The new processing center in Tyler will employ more than 300 people, Neidorff said, and Centene will have close to 3,000 employees in Texas when it is done. That's compared to only 875 employees in its corporate offices, he added.
“This is a big moment for us,” he said. “We believe the jobs should be in the market where we're doing business.”
Centene is expected to bring 327 new jobs in Tyler, with an average salary and fringe benefits of $45,000. Annual payroll would be about $13.4 million within four years, officials said.
Few Centene employees will be transferred to work in Tyler, Neidorff said. Most of the employees will be local. He said supervisors, directors, managers and claims services personnel will be needed, and there are many jobs available for people who are high school graduates. He said Centene offers programs to help employees earn college degrees.
Centene Company of Texas, L.P., a subsidiary of Centene Corp, is bringing the core claims processing center to Tyler. Centene Corp., a publicly traded Fortune 500 health insurance company based in St. Louis, Mo., is the nation's fourth-largest Medicaid manager. The company is a multi-line health care enterprise that provides programs and related services to the rising number of under-insured and uninsured individuals.
Many receive benefits provided under Medicaid.
Tyler Economic Development Council President/CEO Tom Mullins said Centene bought 25 acres from the Tyler Economic Development Council for the $15 million facility, and optioned an additional 15 acres for future expansion. Centene is the first tenant of the Tyler Business and Technology Park on Earl Campbell Parkway.
The 50,000-square-foot facility also will include a cafeteria and child development center, where parents can visit their children during lunchtime, Neidorff said. It's a “very self-contained facility,” he added.
“To get to this point, it took a lot of wonderful working relationships,” Neidorff said. “Our goal is to be the best claims center you could hope for … and to grow.”
Local officials spoke at the ceremony, attended by about 50 people.
Tom Ellis, chairman of the Tyler Economic Development Council, said the group began working with Centene consultants last fall to bring them to the 140-acre Tyler Business and Technology Park. Tyler was in the running with Killeen, Waco, Abilene and a location in Georgia to construct the new center, and Centene announced in February that it chose Tyler. Ellis said putting the project together was a team effort among the city of Tyler, Smith County, Tyler Junior College, the Governor's Office and local professionals.
State Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, said several governmental entities worked together, and he is grateful Neidorff chose Tyler to construct the new center.
Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass said the city needs quality jobs with good pay and benefits, and Centene fits that bill. She said the 327 new jobs created will be a boost to the economy.
Smith County Judge Joel Baker said everyone knows what the additional jobs will mean to local families, but Centene also will benefit the economy because of the corporate partnerships it develops within the communities it serves. Smith County Commissioner JoAnn Hampton thanked city and county officials for having a vision for economic development in the northwest area of town.
Several incentives were approved by local governmental entities, as well as Gov. Rick Perry's Office, to entice the company to bring the facility here.
“We really look forward to becoming a part of this community,” Neidorff said.