Spine Institute Adding 100 jobs, IT Firm Hiring 400

December 10, 2014

Yvette C. Hammett | Tampa Tribune
As Laser Spine Institute prepared to celebrate the groundbreaking for its Westshore headquarters in an expansion that means 100 new jobs here, the governor’s office revealed another 400 new Tampa positions will be created by a growing information technology company.
Cognizant, a Fortune 500 global IT firm, is expanding its Tampa operation and expects to create the new jobs over the next four years, according to the governor’s office.
Meanwhile, Laser Spine Institute, a home-grown medical practice that has accomplished considerable national growth in its first decade, planned to break ground today on construction of the $56 million headquarters and an ambulatory surgery center, an expansion that results in 100 new employees.
The new facility is in West Shore’s Avion Park office complex, where construction is expected to be complete early in 2016.
The 176,000-square-foot center will create about 100 new high-paying jobs and allow doctors to treat about 25 percent more patients than the 425 or so it can now treat each month at its Rocky Point facility.
Laser Spine Institute, an outpatient surgery center, was founded in Tampa in 2005 with the premise of giving patients suffering with debilitating neck and back pain an alternative to traditional surgery. Three doctors — James St. Louis, Glenn Hamburg and Michael Perry — started the practice with nine employees, one operating room and a surgical plan offering what the institute refers to as the most minimally invasive spine surgery in the world.
By 2006, the institute had six operating rooms and 100 employees. Its first national expansion occurred the following year when it opened a center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Laser Spine Institute expanded into Philadelphia in 2009 and into Oklahoma City in 2011. By January 2012, the institute was performing more than 400 surgeries a month with 450 employees.
This year, the institute is opening new surgery centers in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
Today, the company boasts more than 900 employees with 35 physicians, corporate-wide. The new positions will be a mix of medical operations and corporate staff to support growth here in Tampa and elsewhere in the country.
The average salary in the Tampa facility is around $80,000, compared to the average salary in Hillsborough County of $45,000.
“A lot of people ask me if we anticipated this kind of growth and I honestly have to say no,” said Perry, one of the institute co-founders and its chief medical director. “We got the right people in the right positions… and developed something that got a phenomenal response.”
Perry said the current facility has eight operating rooms, with corporate offices in a second building. The new headquarters will have 10 operating rooms with room for expansion.
Company spokesman Brad Simon said 60 percent of the institute’s surgeries are performed in Tampa and 80 percent of the patients come from elsewhere. So, having the new headquarters near the airport, the interstate and hotels is important not only for those seeking treatment, but those recovering after treatment.
“As Laser Spine Institute grows, so does Tampa’s reputation as a first-class destination for health information, biotech and life sciences companies,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “Companies like Laser Spine Institute are driving our local economy to new heights, creating quality jobs in evolving, competitive industries.”
Laser Spine Institute, which has a $230 million economic impact here, is not receiving government incentives to expand and hire more people, Simon said.
Neither Enterprise Florida nor the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Council, both partners in the deal, would release any specifics about an incentive package for Cognizant due to a state statute that protects confidentiality for 180 days after a deal is signed.
But the Hillsborough County Commission, at its June 4 meeting, signed off on an incentive package for an unnamed technology company about to hire 412 employees with an average wage of at least $63,669. That company is receiving state and local incentives totalling $2.4 million, or $7,000 per job. The jobs will come over the next four years as the company invests $5.7 million.
Of the $2.4 million in incentives for the unnamed company, the county will pay $494,440 over seven years. The incentives were approved through the state’s Florida Qualified Target Industries Tax Refund Program.
Cognizant has 75 delivery and operations centers worldwide and more than 31,000 full time employees across all 50 states. It is ranked among the top performing and fastest-growing companies in the world. Cognizant officials could not be reached at deadline.
Of its 900 Florida employees, about half of them are in Cognizant’s Tampa office. The new positions will be for highly skilled technology and business professionals who will work with U.S. corporations across the financial services, insurance and health care industries.
Gray Swoope, State Secretary of Commerce and president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, said the expansion “is a great fit for Tampa’s growing IT cluster and I look forward to Cognizant’s continued success.”
Florida ranks second in the nation for tech job growth and third for high tech establishments.
“We are very excited that Cognizant will be expanding its Tampa locations,” said Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We continue to see growth in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field in Florida’s High Tech Corridor as Florida further solidifies its high ranking as a hub for tech job growth.”
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