Business First of Louisville, December 18, 2009, by John R. Karman III
Chalk up another economic development victory for Louisville.
On the heels of major announcements by General Electric Co. and RecoverCare LLC, another company has selected the city as the place to expand its operations.
Achieve CCA Inc., a 2-year-old company that provides debt-management services and financial consulting to health care clients, plans to establish its corporate headquarters and a call center here.
The company, which was founded in Evansville, Ind., eventually could bring as many as 205 jobs to the city.
Andrew Smith, Achieve founder, president and CEO, called Louisville the “ideal site” to expand his company because of its established network of hospitals and health care enterprises.
“Louisville has really emerged as one of the health care capitals” of the country, said Smith, who added that there is a “diverse, well-educated” work force here and a ready bank of call-center employees from which to draw.
Louisville also is home to Chrysalis Ventures Inc., a venture-capital firm that is Achieve’s principal investment group.
Chrysalis invested $5 million in the company earlier this year to help it reach its goal of expanding services to health care providers and consumers across the United States.
Headquarters to be on Linn Station Road
Achieve began moving its headquarters operation into leased space at 10400 Linn Station Road last week.
It will lease 4,500 square feet there initially, but it has an option to take an additional 20,000 square feet as the company grows, according to Smith.
Currently, Achieve has 20 Louisville employees, but it plans to hire another 150 workers in the next 12 to 18 months, he said. The majority of the available positions will be financial counselors, but there also will be openings in technology, debt management, sales, accounting and legal fields.
Tax incentive package approved in June
Achieve announced that it was considering Louisville for expansion during a June meeting of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority in Frankfort. The expansion was described as a $1.3 million investment for the company.
The KEDFA board granted the company preliminary approval for $2.7 million in state tax incentives for up to 10 years. That figure was based on the creation of 205 jobs with an annual payroll of $7.4 million.
Smith said the company plans to retain a small operation in Evansville, where it has five employees. “But any growth that occurs is going to happen in Louisville,” he added.
Health care, credit card debt targeted
Achieve works with hospitals, clinics, physician groups and other health care providers to deliver services to qualified patients. It primarily works with customers burdened by high medical and credit card debt.
Specifically, Achieve enrolls consumers in a debt-management plan and works with creditors to reduce monthly bills, interest rates and fees. The goal of the plan is to help consumers pay off all of their debts, not only those owed to health care providers.
The consumer pays Achieve a fee for its service based on the total amount of debt. The health care provider referring the consumer also pays Achieve a fee based on the amount of debt recovered from the consumer.
Smith said Achieve has experienced “substantial growth” in just the past few months. He declined to disclose a total number of clients but said the company now represents 15 hospitals and has customers in 15 states.
It also has signed contracts recently with a number of local entities, including Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Health Care Inc., University of Louisville Hospital, University of Louisville Neonatal Associates PSC and Clark Memorial Hospital.
‘Tremendous growth potential’
Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, recently recognized Achieve as one of its “2009 Hot Dozen” companies.
The list, formulated by GLI’s Enterprise Corp. affiliate, recognizes the area’s most innovative and entrepreneurial local firms.
Achieve is “one to watch,” said Eileen Pickett, GLI’s senior vice president for community and economic development. The company has “tremendous growth potential.”
Pickett added that it is “a coup” to land Achieve because the company falls into a “sweet spot” of Louisville’s economy — health care.
Competitors viewed as ‘role models’
In Louisville, Achieve joins several companies, including National Patient Account Services Inc. and MedAssist Inc., that do collections work for the health care industry.
David Jones Jr., Chrysalis chairman and managing director, said those companies are “really good role models” for Achieve because it is such a new business.
Jones, who is on the Achieve board of directors, said Chrysalis invested in the fledgling company because large medical bills are becoming an increasing burden for families. He believes the company can help people develop a strategy for managing all of their expenses.
Achieve is in “the right place at the right time,” said Jones, who also is nonexecutive chairman of Humana Inc., one of the country’s largest health insurance providers.
Achieve is providing “a new solution and one that will be important for a long time to come,” Jones said.
Plenty of positive news lately
Achieve’s decision to locate its headquarters in Louisville is the latest in a series of positive events welcomed by a city struggling to recover from the recession.
Last week, RecoverCare, a maker of wound-care and bariatric-care products, announced plans to move its headquarters here from Philadelphia, creating 57 jobs.
At the Dec. 10 KEDFA meeting, 13 companies introduced potential expansion plans for Louisville — an economic development bonanza that could result in 657 new jobs.
And earlier this week, GE unveiled plans to invest $80 million at Louisville’s Appliance Park to build a new line of high-end washers and dryers. That project will create 430 jobs.
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