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Health claims center to add 330 jobs

Uniprise also will transfer 360 employees from offices in Tampa and Clearwater to a new center it will build in Oldsmar.

A national health care services provider is looking for 330 new employees from the Tampa Bay area to fill positions in a 103,000-square-foot claims processing center the company will build in Oldsmar.

Uniprise, an entity of UnitedHealth Group that provides health-care plans and insurance to more than 50-million Americans, announced Monday the company's plans to relocate and expand its three operations in Tampa and Clearwater to a central location at the Tampa Bay Park of Commerce in Oldsmar.

Uniprise will transfer to Oldsmar 360 employees from offices in Tampa and Clearwater. It also will add 330 new employees, expected to be hired from the Tampa Bay area.

"I would imagine that this is the greatest single project we have coming to town," said Kevin Gartland, executive director of the Greater Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce.

State, county and local government agencies worked on the deal. Uniprise was given incentives that included about $1.2-million in state and county tax refunds over three years, according to county records.

"This is a story about what partnership can accomplish," Rick Dodge, assistant county administrator for economic development, said at the news conference Monday. "It's a little bit rainy outside, but I tell you, there is a lot of sunshine in here because this will have such an impact not only on Oldsmar but throughout Pinellas County. We are very delighted this is happening."

Sally Sidwell, Uniprise regional vice president, said the majority of the new positions will be for claims processors and customer service representatives. The starting salary for employees without experience is $22,000, Sidwell said.

Uniprise will begin its search for new employees immediately, Sidwell said. The company wants to begin construction in February and move into the new building by the end of 2000. The site will have 650 parking spaces and will require construction of an access road extending from Dunbar Avenue, north of Tampa Road, to the planned Linebaugh Avenue extension.

The incentive package given to the company is called the Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund, according to Pinellas County Commission records. In November, county commissioners approved giving the business a refund of $240,000 in local property and other taxes, the county's share of the incentive.

Such refunds commonly are offered by the state to lure to Florida specific industries. Companies must fulfill requirements such as creating new jobs and also must have an average starting salary 15 percent higher than the county average, said Catherine Deans, spokeswoman for Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development organization.

"(The tax refund program) was set up by the Legislature to be a performance-based incentive, which means the company has got to do something in order to get something," Deans said. "If they do not meet those requirements, they do not get their refund."

Uniprise has more than 12,000 employees nationwide and provides employee benefit plans for large employers, including 130 of the Fortune 500 companies. Uniprise's parent company, UnitedHealth Group, headquartered in Minneapolis, has more than 29,000 employees nationwide and projected its 1999 revenues would be more than $19-billion.

Anyone interested in applying for Uniprise's new positions can submit resumes by fax to (727) 724-5205 or by mail to 2605 Enterprise Road E, Suite 210, Clearwater, FL 33759.

Oldsmar officials who participated in the news conference Monday said they were thankful that the company decided to relocate in the city.

"Oldsmar is no longer the land that time forgot," City Council member Jerry Provenzano said. "We are a very real, very viable part of this business community."

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