Kaiser Permanente will open a new members services center this fall in Duluth, bringing more than 600 jobs to Gwinnett County, company officials said in a joint announcement with Gov. Nathan Deal and county commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash at the state capitol on Thursday.
The jobs make up the bulk of 800 positions the company plans to bring to metro Atlanta by 2020 due to the facility, Deal said. Some of the remaining positions will be jobs where the employees can work remotely, which a Gwinnett Chamber official said could also be filled by Gwinnett residents.
Deal later added that he thought Thursday’s announcement showed the company’s faith in both the state and in Gwinnett County.
“These 800 new jobs in Gwinnett County is an indication that we’re doing something right,” he said. “These are good, high-paying jobs and it gives people the opportunity to have expendable income, contribute to the resources of the state of Georgia and also to the communities in which their families live. It’s great for our state all the way around.”
The company is renovating an 185,000-square foot office complex which is located on a 18-acre tract in Duluth and is capable of housing as many as 1,000 workers. The move represents a $51 million capital investment by Kaiser Permanente.
The center will serve customers in several states, as well as Washington D.C., with staff being trained to answer questions about billing and insurance coverage, company officials said. Recruiting is expected to begin in the later half of this summer, and the company plans to open the center this fall.
Gwinnett Chamber Senior Vice-President of Economic Development Nick Masino said the facility will be located near Gwinnett Place Mall. He added that Kaiser Permanente wants to keep the exact location secret, however, for security reasons.
“We’re really excited about where they’ve chosen and we think that’s good for that part of Gwinnett,” he said. “When you add 600-800 jobs, that’s a project of regional significance. Obviously, the governor doesn’t do an announcement for every project, but this is obviously one that he thought was really important.”
The company picked the location based on contacts it had in the area, said Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia President Julie Miller-Phipps.
“We do serve over 10 million members nationally and so having access to these contacts is a real benefit to us,” she added. “We’ve been able to combine this amazing technology that we’re going to have at this site with some amazing people.”
The new center could end up putting Kaiser Permanente among the county’s largest employers in the private sector, according to Masino. The company already has a presence in the county through some existing clinics and centers.
“We think after these jobs are filled, they will become one of the top 10 private companies in Gwinnett although we’re not 100 percent positive,” Masino said. “They might be approaching 1,500 (employees in the county).”
Nash said the county will have a better idea of where Kaiser fits among the county’s other large, private employers when it pulls the tallies for the county’s comprehensive financial report for 2017. The county does the report each year to give it a sense of what was going on in the county during the previous year.
“If they’re not in the top 10, then they would be very close I would think,” she said.
During the announcement, the commission chairwoman said county officials are “obviously thrilled” about the announcement, at one point quipping “Who wouldn’t be happy to have that number of jobs coming into their facility?”
“We have a great partnership with Kaiser Permanente in Gwinnett,” she said. “They are one of our health care providers for our employees, we have a great employee clinic that they are part of running. It’s only natural that this be an outgrowth of that.
“We’ve got a great workforce, but it wouldn’t happen without partnership from both the state and all of the local officials working with Kaiser Permanente. It’s amazing what we can all do together when we pull together.”
Nash later told the Daily Post the announcement showed Kaiser’s satisfaction with the area.
“Businesses typically don’t look at adding things to an area (when) they’re not happy with their current locations or current operations,” she said. “They’d already had a chance to test us and try us out. Building those relationships can be really important over a long period of time and specific deals like this don’t happen quickly, usually.”