Gov. Scott’s Former Company Leaving Florida

The chain of urgent care clinics that the governor helped start a decade ago is packing up and moving  to the Volunteer State.

Solantic’s corporate headquarters, currently in Jacksonville, will be calling Nashville, Tennessee home by the end of 2011.

This past August, the company had announced it was hiring an additional 50 people in Florida.

It’s a disheartening move for Scott, who has billed himself as Florida’s “jobs governor” and has contended his push for cuts in regulations and taxes has helped bring down the state’s unemployment rate. Florida’s current jobless rate is 10.6 percent

“I think it’s disappointing they are moving, I believe that we put ourselves in a position that this is the best state to do business in,” Scott said.

Scott, who helped start the company in 2001, sold his interest in the chain in June after he was criticized for potential conflict of interest. Scott’s shares were bought by the New York investment firm of Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe

The new ownership said as part of its expansion across the Southeast that it was opening up new offices in Tennessee. The move was first reported by the Jacksonville Financial News & Daily Record.

“We have been working with an extensive team of consultants who have been helping us identify several new states and markets that are prime for our service offerings,” said CEO Michael Klein in a company release. “We will be positioning the company to take on these new challenges.”

It is not clear how many jobs will be shifted from Jacksonville to Tennessee. The company pointed out in a release that it plans to maintain its billing department in Jacksonville.

The governor’s office on Wednesday evening put out a statement contending that it was inaccurate to say the company was relocating its headquarters. Scott’s office also pointed out the bulk of the company’s jobs would remain in Florida.

But a spokeswoman for Solantic told the Jacksonville financial paper it was taking part of its executive team to Nashville because it’s the “biggest medical hub in the entire United States.

“They are looking at being at the jumping-off point where the magic is happening,” said Mandy Villalva.

When reached on Wednesday, Villalva said she would check to see how many jobs were moving but has not responded further.

Earlier in the day, Scott said through a spokesman that he wasn’t consulted about the move.

“There was no involvement from Governor Scott, nor his administration in Solantic’s decision,” said Lane Wright. “They never reached out to us about it.”

Scott has made jobs in Florida the central focus of his administration and has touted the recent drops in the state’s unemployment rate.

While addressing reporters and editors at The Associated Press annual legislative planning session, Scott stood in front of a chart that proclaimed the state was “headed in the right direction” and the state had added a net of more than 92,000 jobs since January.

But Solantic head Klein said it makes sense for Solantic – whose name derives from “South on the Atlantic” – to have a presence in Nashville because of the number of health care companies already based there.

“If we are to meet our expansion goals, adding another office in the health care hub will provide the possible opportunities to facilitate growth,” Klein said.

Scott himself once lived in Nashville when he was in charge of Columbia/HCA, which owned hospitals across the country. Scott was forced out of the company back in 1997 amid an investigation that eventually led the company to pay a record $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud.

The governor listed the worth of his investment in Solantic last year at $62 million. He turned over ownership in the business to his wife shortly after he won his election a year ago.

But over the spring questions were raised on whether Scott would benefit financially from state efforts to privatize Medicaid and require drug testing for welfare recipients should the state do business with Solantic.

Scott maintained that Solantic would not seek state contracts and said he was just too busy as governor to spend time overseeing business interests.

Associated Press (AP)