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Centene to build new claims center in Ferguson, add up to 200 jobs

Centene to build new claims center in Ferguson, add up to 200 jobs

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FERGUSON • Centene Corp. has selected Ferguson, the site of unrest for more than three weeks following the police shooting of Michael Brown, as the location for a new claims processing facility, with plans to bring up to 200 jobs to the city.

The unrest following Brown’s death prompted Centene to select the city for the expansion.

“Centene views this as a way to help the community and we have the confidence in the residents of Ferguson,” Centene’s chairman and chief executive Michael Neidorff said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do for the community, state and our shareholders. It is time for action, not talk.”

Centene, a Fortune 500 managed care company based in Clayton with $10.5 billion in annual revenue, said the center will process claims from its Missouri-based Home State Health, in addition to overflow from its contracts in other states.

The location for the center has not been selected. The company said it is looking at multiple sites on about three acres.

The company said it is pursuing an aggressive timeline to get the center open in 2015 and will begin taking applications before the end of this year.

“While a normal project of this scope generally takes up to 18 months, Centene has authorized an expedited timeline,” the company said in the statement.

Before the center opens, Centene plans to open a temporary site to train and develop new employees.

The new jobs will come with benefits including health care, dental and vision insurance, an on-site day care, cafeteria, and an auditorium for educational advancement, Centene said.

Ferguson is about eight miles north of Centene’s headquarters. Brown, 18, was unarmed when he was killed by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9. Brown’s death sparked protests and violence over the past three weeks, bringing international attention to the city.

The unemployment rate in Ferguson, which has a population of 21,000, has risen rapidly, growing from less than 5 percent in 2000 to more than 13 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to a report by Brookings Institute economic scholar Elizabeth Kneebone, and more than one in four Ferguson residents had incomes below the poverty level in 2012. In recent weeks, protesters and activists have called for new jobs to help revitalize the economy.

Centene’s chief financial officer William Scheffel said the company worked with Gov. Jay Nixon’s office to bring the facility to Ferguson. The Missouri Department of Economic Development has offered Centene an unspecified amount of incentives through the Missouri Works Training Program for the new facility, based on the number of jobs that are added and the amount of Centene’s investment in the project. Through the program, St. Louis Community College will provide targeted job training to staff the new center.

“This investment is an important step forward for Ferguson and the entire region,” Nixon said in a statement. “Attracting new jobs and investments is vital to creating greater economic opportunities for all Missourians in this region.”

Founded in 1984, Centene receives most of its revenue through contracts with state Medicaid managed care programs and operates in 20 states. Centene’s revenue reached $10.5 billion last year, a 37 percent increase from 2012, and it employs about 9,500 people nationwide, including more than 2,000 locally. In addition to its Clayton headquarters, it has an office in west St. Louis County, a claims center in Farmington, and an office in Jefferson City.

Last year, Centene opened its third U.S. claims center in a 50,000-square-foot building in Tyler, Texas. That facility represented a $15 million capital investment by Centene, according to Texas officials.

Lisa Brown is a business reporter at the Post-Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @LisaBrownSTL and the Business section @postdispatchbiz.

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