CHS confirms massive $66M Antioch expansion
Wayne Smith is CEO of Community Health Systems.
Community Health Systems Inc. confirmed its plans today for a massive expansion in Antioch.
The nation's largest hospital operator, with more than $6 billion in market capitalization, said Thursday morning it is investing $66 million in a new back-office expansion expected to bring almost 1,600 new jobs to Davidson County in the next five years. The office, housing support personnel, is expected to be part of a development pursued by Nashville developer Oldacre McDonald and Atlanta developer TPA Group. It should be operational in 2017, according to a news release.
Nashville Business Journal was the first to report this week that CHS had settled on the Oldacre McDonald site on land at exit 60 of Interstate 24, which is on the opposite side of the highway from the former Hickory Hollow Mall. The hospital giant had previously been under contract to buy 22-acres in Cool Springs to build additional office space, a deal CHS walked away from about three months ago.
The new office in Antioch will be a six-story, 240,000-square-foot facility. Four-hundred existing CHS employees will also work at the office, according to CHS spokeswoman Tomi Galin.
The majority of the new jobs will come from the consolidation of back-office functions at CHS hospitals, located in 29 states. Because of the consolidation, the new office will more likely represent a net reduction in the company's total workforce than a net increase, according to Wayne Smith, chairman and CEO of Community Health Systems.
CHS said the expansion stems from growth following its $7.6 billion acquisition of Health Management Associates last year, which brought more than 70 more hospitals under CHS' control nationwide. It's a search the company started last August, as Nashville Business Journal has previously reported.
“We’ve known for thirty years that Middle Tennessee is a great place to do business. We looked at many states and sites for this expansion and ultimately determined that Middle Tennessee offers the business environment, skilled workforce and quality of life to support our growth,” Smith said in a news release. “We are delighted to create new jobs in our home state and that our progress also means a direct and positive economic impact for Middle Tennessee.”
For Antioch, the investment by CHS is another boost to the Nashville suburb, where both Aramark and Asurion have added support operations in the past year expected to ultimately add thousands of jobs.
CHS' expansion into Davidson County also comes at the expense of Franklin, the health care giant's home. Although Smith stressed the company will not be leaving Williamson County - where it is one of the county's largest employers - the company had previously eyed a site near its current headquarters.
Multiple political and economic development sources have told Nashville Business Journal that CHS butted heads with Williamson County lawmakers over their opposition to Insure Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam's plan to expand health insurance coverage to 280,000 Tennessee, which was supported by hospitals like CHS in part because it would reduce the unpaid care they provide. That proposal was killed twice at the committee level earlier this year. About a week after Insure Tennessee failed the first time, Nashville Business Journal reported CHS had reset its search for additional office space, including sites in Davidson County.
One political operative, speaking on background and not for attribution, characterized the company's legislative approach as black-and-white: Either you're with us or against us. Sources said opposition to Insure Tennessee by Franklin lawmakers may have led CHS to drop its expansion in Cool Springs and look elsewhere.
"My impression is the move to Antioch rather than expanding in Williamson County is tied to the legislative delegation not supporting Insure Tennessee," Durham, the Republican House Majority Whip, told The Tennessean, adding the expansion in Antioch "suggest that they wanted to punish us for taking a position against Insure Tennessee."
According to the newspaper, CHS met with Williamson County lawmakers on Jan. 20, the day after the company received approval from the Williamson County Industrial Development Board for its now-scrapped Williamson County expansion. Durham and Rep. Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, told The Tennessean the conversation at that January meeting centered on the Franklin lawmakers' position on Insure Tennessee.
Galin told The Tennessean Wednesday the company's decision was tied to a number of factors.
In remarks at the announcement Thursday morning, Smith didn't address Insure Tennessee, though he did field questions on it after the event. He said CHS chose Antioch because of land costs, ability to expand there again, long-term flexibility, workforce and incentives.