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News : Blue Cross Reopens Great Falls Center
June 5, 2014 -- Business and political leaders welcomed a business back to Great Falls when Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana held a grand opening for its new provider service center at 3360 10th Ave. S.
After six weeks of internal training, around 45 employees began taking calls Monday, answering questions from doctors, hospitals and staff in five states about patient eligibility and benefits coverage. By fall, the company expects to employ 120 employees making wages that begin at $12.84 an hour.
It was the second time in less than a week that Great Falls leaders celebrated a business expansion. Last week, ADF International showed off its steel fabrication building just north of town that's already employing 80 workers, with plans to add another 70 or more by the end of the year.
BCBSMT is actually moving back to Great Falls, where it had as many as 150 employees working in a different claims processing role from about 1960 until 2011, when it closed the Great Falls operation during a recession-era cutback. Company President Mike Frank made that glum announcement back then to the 50 remaining employees, offering them a transfer to Helena or severance package.
Frank, in the same role, said he was elated "to be able to come full circle" and reopen a remodeled building that will employ more than 100 workers, including a handful who had worked for the company in Great Falls before.
"It's great to celebrate the reopening of the Blue Cross Blue Shield operations in Great Falls," Gov. Steve Bullock said. "It's 100-plus good paying jobs for the community and a reminder of health care's importance to Montana" both economically and socially. Bullock also stressed the need for Montana and local communities to continue emphasizing education and workforce training so they provided companies with good workers.
Janna Yuhas, one of the Great Falls employees rehired by BCBSMT, was excited.
"It's awesome that they're reopening here," said Yuhas, who worked 27 years for the company starting at age 19. "It's a great opportunity for Great Falls residents because Blue Cross has always been a great employer, providing good pay and benefits."
Yuhas, who will be one of five supervisors, said she couldn't believe how much the company spent on remodeling and new technology improved the facility.
"The building is totally different and modern, though we didn't know how dated it was when we worked here before," she said. "The only thing that looks the same is the exterior walls, and even its windows have been expanded to let in more natural light."
Brian Elliott, senior manager of the Great Falls facility, said it's got a high tech conference and training room and soft lighting and acoustic tiles that mute sound in the 85-by-100-foot room where 120 employees eventually will work at cubicles. The facility has room for up to 150 employees.
Health Care Service Corp. was required to establish a service center in Montana with more than 100 employees as part of state regulatory approval of the large private health insurer's purchase of nonprofit BCBSMT in 2013, but Great Falls wasn't assured of getting a Blue Cross center back.
Frank said the HCSC's advance scout considered several major Montana communities, looking for ones with a sufficient number of well-educated workers.
Jeremiah Johnson, business development vice president for the Great Falls Development Authority, said the company's site selection consultant met with several Great Falls businesses asking about access to hard working and educated employees and other key aspects. Johnson thinks the availability of Malmstrom Air Force Base spouses looking for jobs helped Great Falls.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Today's Tip of the Day - Finding A Workforce Management System
More Editorial From Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana
About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana:
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana provides Montanans with health and wellness solutions along with customer service.
Published: Friday, June 6, 2014