Centene has taken another big step in expanding its downtown Clayton headquarters. The managed care company for Medicaid recipients held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday for the $770 million project.
The event featured officials from throughout the region, including new St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and Missouri Gov. Eric Grietens. While preliminary work on the project has been underway for months, Friday marked the ceremonial start of construction.
Centene Chief Executive Officer Michael Niedorff said governors from other states called him to attempt to lure the headquarters away from the St. Louis region.
"At no time did I raise that with any official here," Niedorff said Friday. "I was not trying to leverage that. And the point being, we have a commitment to Missouri and we think it's important — our commitment to this community and to the broader region."
The project has had some bumps in the road to get to this point. It involves more than $75 million in tax incentives, which were controversial. Some Clayton residents were concerned about the size of the project and its impact on the city's skyline and views. They also wanted residents to have a direct vote on the expansion. An effort to petition the city to get the issue on the ballot failed when Clayton officials said the signatures did not comply with the city charter.
"I've never seen when you're trying to do something really worthwhile where somebody can't find some fault with it, okay?" Niedorff said. "I'm just looking at the overall benefits of this project and I want to thank the really overwhelming number of people who supported us."
Centene says the expansion project will eventually bring another 2,000 jobs to Clayton.
The first phase of construction includes a 28-story building. That should be completed by 2020.
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