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Centene To Build $1B Office Campus, Hire 3,200 In Charlotte

An architect's drawing shows the planned Centene Corp. campus in University Research Park.
Centene Corp.
An architect's drawing shows the planned Centene Corp. campus in University Research Park.

Managed health care giant Centene Corp. says it will build a $1 billion East Coast headquarters and technology hub in northeast Charlotte. The company expects to hire about 3,200 people over the next 12 years, and that could nearly double in the future.

Gov. Roy Cooper called the announcement historic. "It'll create the latest single job creation project by headcount in the history of North Carolina's JDIG program," he said Wednesday morning.

JDIG stands for Job Investment Development Grant, the state's main business recruitment incentive program. 

Just moments before the announcement, North Carolina's Economic Investment Committee approved a state grant of $438.6 million for the project. Centene also will get $4.5 million in community college training assistance and a combined $73.2 million in incentives from Charlotte and Mecklenburg County if it meets its job creation goals.

Centene plans to break ground in August on an 80-acre site in University Research Park off West W.T. Harris Boulevard. Plans call for a six-building campus that eventually could employ more than 6,000 people.  CEO Michael Neidorff said beside offices and tech facilities, it will include a child care center and a corporate training center, which he called a "university."  

The jobs will have an average annual salary of just over $100,000, state officials said.  That's well above Mecklenburg County's average of $68,000 a year. 

But Mayor Vi Lyles said Wednesday that some would be aimed more at average wage-earners. She said about 1,000 would be in "operations," such as maintenance and other workers helping to run the campus. Those will pay an average of about $63,000 a year. 

"It will be a good opportunity for everyone in this community to compete and to be able to (start at) entry level, and go to their university, take advantage of their child care and other benefits. So when you think about that, that's a really important aspect," Lyles said. 

Lyles also said the company will be able to hire graduates of the city's financial technology training programs.  

State officials said Centene chose Charlotte over sites in York County, South Carolina, and Tampa, Florida.

"Our new campus will enable Centene to continue advancing our mission, to provide care to our most vulnerable populations and transform the health care of communities we serve," Neidorff  said. 

St. Louis-based Centene is a health insurance and managed care company. It's the nation's largest Medicaid managed care provider and the largest carrier on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. The company has a contract with North Carolina to take over administration of Medicare in parts of the state.

Mecklenburg County Commission Chair George Dunlap said the project would benefit the entire county.  

"In addition to the jobs created by this project, the county estimates that nearly 2,500 secondary jobs will be created as a result of this investment," he said. 

Dunlap said county officials estimate Centene will contribute a net $102 million in new revenues over the next 20 years, money that can be spent on schools, libraries, parks and other new investments.  

WFAE host Gwendolyn Glenn talks with reporter David Boraks about Wednesday's announcement that Centene plans a $1 billion office campus in Charlotte.

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.