Obamacare may be controversial, but it’s about to bring hundreds of jobs to Wentzville.
A Virginia-based government contractor is planning to hire 600 people over the next three months to staff a processing center in the St. Charles County suburb, to handle applications for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Serco Inc. closed last week on a deal to lease much of the old US Fidelis call center on Mall Parkway in Wentzville. Company executives, who met with St. Charles County officials on Tuesday, say they plan to hire and train hundreds of people in September and October and to have the center operational by Nov. 1.
“We are working a very tight quick turnaround,” said Shaveta Joshi, a benefits and compensation manager with Serco.
Wentzville is one of three sites the company selected under a contract it won last month from the Department of Health and Human Services. The other two centers are in Arkansas and Kentucky.
Under the federal contract, the company will process, review and troubleshoot applications for the state health insurance exchanges that are launching Oct. 1, and provide records management and verification support.
Joshi said Serco was drawn to the St. Louis area by its growth potential and the high number of college graduates.
The new jobs will start at $12 an hour, though higher-skilled positions will pay more, and all the jobs include benefits. Serco is planning to hold a job fair the week of Sept. 23, but it has already started advertising jobs on its website.
Serco is not applying for any state or local tax incentives, Joshi said. The company has a one-year contract to start, with four one-year options to follow, with a total value of $1.25 billion.
Rick Stokes, president of the Wentzville Board of Aldermen, applauded the news. City officials just found out about the deal on Friday, and they met Tuesday morning with Serco to start hammering out details.
“We came together to help them get their facility together, to get ready to roll, to set up for job interviews,” he said. “You don’t get this kind of news every day. It was just an exciting morning.”
The building, an old mall, has sat largely empty since US Fidelis collapsed amid fraud charges in 2009. It still had nearly 350,000 square feet for lease. The ability to plug into a big, ready-made, call center likely helped draw Serco to Wentzville, said Tony Mathews, president of the Western St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce.
“The facility itself has all the furniture even; everything’s there in place,” he said. “It’s set up and ready to go. I think that was a good incentive.”
And, he said, having 600 people going to work there every day, starting in a few months, should be a big boost for the area’s economy. “That’s people shopping and dining in our community,” he said. “The economic impact will just be fantastic.”
Serco is one of several local companies that are expanding in the region to handle an expected surge in business from the implementation of Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act has been dubbed.
In July, for example, public relations firm FleishmanHillard won a $35 million contract to promote Illinois’ health insurance exchange. Equifax Workforce Solutions also received a contract worth up to $329.4 million to verify incomes of people who apply for federal subsidies through the program.