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Centene opens new facility in Ferguson

Centene announced plans for this new claims center shortly after the death of Michael Brown
Centene Corporation
Centene announced plans for this new claims center shortly after the death of Michael Brown.

Updated Friday, April 15, 3 p.m. to included comments from grand opening: The opening of Centene's $25 million center in Ferguson Friday is the completion of a goal set by the company's chief executive officer shortly after violence broke out in the city in 2014.

Michael Neidorff said the investment by the Clayton-based managed care company should send a message to some employers who left Ferguson in the aftermath of Michael Brown's death.

"We create economic development up here, through jobs, these smaller companies that are the fabric of any community will have hope and reason to re-open and continue to grow," Neidorff said Friday. "There are five people serving food here today. Companies from Ferguson at our reception that otherwise may not have all been here."

Credit Wayne Pratt, St. Louis Public Radio
Centene Corp. opened a new claims facility in Ferguson on Friday.

Neidorff said the Ferguson operation will eventually have more than 250 workers, with the vast majority from that city and neighboring communities.

Employees there will process claims for Missouri and overflow from other states.

Gov. Jay Nixon, Sens. Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, and other political and business leaders were among the guests Friday at the ceremony marking the new center.

Neidorff also announced on Friday that the company is planning to add more offices in Clayton that could employ roughly 2,000.

Our original story:
Less than one month after the shooting death of Michael Brown and the protests that immediately followed, Centene Corporation made a commitment to Ferguson.

In September 2014, the Fortune 500 company headquartered in Clayton, announced plans to build a claims center in Ferguson.

The commitment will be made whole on Friday with the grand opening of its Ferguson Service Center. The 45,000-square-foot building will employ more than 250 people and is located at 2900 Pershall Road.

Centene spokeswoman Kristen Gosling said an overwhelming majority of the employees are from north St. Louis County. Employees will have access to a bistro, fitness center, and an on-site early childhood development center. 

In an interview from 2014, Centene President, Chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff said events surrounding Brown’s death propelled the company to set its foot in an area it had been eyeing.  

“We have anticipated a service center claims spot in north St. Louis for some time. We saw an opportunity to help the community. When the incidents unfolded in Ferguson and I learned that small shopkeepers were considering 'should we reopen or not?' and then they asked individuals what do you want, they said jobs, I said 'why not?' Give the community some hope; show we have confidence in the greater St. Louis area,” he said.

That decision drew praise from Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

"We're very heartened by their willingness to make an investment,” Nixon said at the time. “It now sends a signal, not only in St. Louis but around the world that North County is open for business."

Nixon will attend Friday’s opening, which takes place at 11 a.m. It’ll include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a musical performance, and samples of food from local restaurants. 

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.