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Jack Foley|Herald News
By Michael Holtzman
Posted Oct 01, 2010 @ 09:32 PM
FALL RIVER —
Two years after opening a $45 million facility on South Watuppa Pond next to the Advanced Technology and Manufacturing Center, Meditech officials described their expansion into this region in baseball parlance:
“A home run. … Nothing but wins,” said Paul Berthiaume, spokesman for hospital software innovator Medical Information Technology Inc., based in Westwood. “It couldn’t have turned out any better.”
In that short period, he said Meditech has more than doubled its staff at the city site to about 450 workers out of a possible 504 work stations. “It’s essentially at capacity.”
The private international company — on the heels of its best year ever in 2009 and a better one this year — is also poised for its second major expansion into the Fall River area expected to add hundreds of new jobs, officials told The Herald News Friday.
“We are looking again for another plot of land and another facility in the SouthCoast,” Director of Corporate Technology Philip Polimeno said.
“It’s been a great experience for everyone — the company, the staff and the community.”
He and Berthiaume said a combination of success locally and companywide has fostered increased hiring for software-related jobs aimed at recent college graduates. They’re paying in the “high-$30,000s to mid-$40,000” range. “Meditech is growing rapidly and hiring aggressively,” Berthiaume said.
The company work force of more than 3,200 has expanded by 10 percent during the first nine months of the year, he said.
He estimated “at least 90 percent” of workers at the 101 Martine St. facility adjacent to the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center are from the SouthCoast area.
Tapping into the local work force and colleges were objectives Meditech listed when deciding to make its first expansion in a decade and design/build a considerable investment into the SouthCoast, Berthiaume said.
He said Meditech was planning an announcement to start building at a new site consistent with its other buildings. Traditionally, the 41-year-old software service provider has employed 400 to 800 people in each of its six facilities, he said.
Asked if this one might be as large as its largest in Framingham, Berthiaume said, “I wouldn’t rule it out.”
The majority of the company’s work force and hires perform installation/training of its unique record-keeping software at hospital settings and supply customer service support to about 2,300 customers in the United States, Canada and on several continents and foreign countries. Software development and marketing comprise a secondary number of the jobs.
In a down economy, Meditech’s been bolstered by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for high technology to spur hospital investments for electronic health records and computer systems, Berthiaume said.
He listed Meditech’s software sales of $233.8 million in 2009, compared with $170 million the prior year, and sales for the first three quarters of this year virtually equal to its record 12 months for 2009.
“We couldn’t have timed it better,” he said of their marketplace and 120,000 square-foot state-of-the-art building expansion on 17 acres near Route 24 and Interstate 195.
The area is close to where University of Massachusetts board of trustees Vice Chairman James Karam said Thursday UMass Dartmouth had narrowed options to build a research and training biomanufacturing center.
“We’re confident if we can get this facility up and running, it will spur other (biomanufacturing) companies in our region,” Karam said of the university’s $26 million project.
Berthiaume said he did not have information to allow him to respond to the UMass Dartmouth prospective project.
The university has made no formal announcement that it had narrowed its search and that business parks in New Bedford and Freetown were no longer being considered. Karam said that decision had been made.
Mayor Will Flanagan said Friday he’s been aware of Meditech’s expansion needs and directed the head of the Fall River Office of Economic Development to help the company find a suitable site in the area that could include “Fall River, Freetown or Westport.”
Flanagan noted the city’s 13 percent unemployment rate, coupled with significantly lower rates in surrounding towns. As a result, Meditech’s building of a facility in the region “would bring local jobs” to many city residents, he said.
FROED Executive Vice President Kenneth Fiola spoke generally about discussions with Meditech. “Over the last four months, my office has been working very closely with officials at Meditech to evaluate sites in and around Fall River,” he said.
He declined to specify “five sites” he showed Meditech officials, and said the city “has been working hard to keep them in the area.”
“The expansion,” Fiola said, “would be equal to what they already have, or it could be larger.”
He estimated Meditech pays $400,000 to $500,000 in annual taxes. It does not receive any tax breaks and would not likely seek them for this project, Fiola said.
E-mail Michael Holtzman at email@example.com.