Large employer wants more time to reach job agreement

Optum seeking year extension to add 200 jobs

One of La Crosse’s biggest employers is asking for another year to meet a job creation agreement with the city.

Optum Services, which owns Logistics Health Inc. and operates three riverside buildings in downtown La Crosse, has a job development agreement with the city , which seeks to create 2,000 jobs at the location by the end of the year.

But with 200 jobs short of that goal, Optum is looking for an extension with the city.
In an effort to create jobs, city agreements like these can be key for job creation.

“You have to have them in place,” said Audry Kader of the La Crosse City Council. “You can’t have people coming in, making promises and ripping the city off.”

Optum purchased Logistics Health in 2011, followed by the acquisition of the three riverside center buildings in downtown La Crosse from Logistics Health CEO Don Weber’s development company in September of 2014.

In the purchase, Optum inherited a job development agreement with the city, a trade for the city’s financial help in building the third riverside center building, which provides incentive payments if a specific amount of jobs are created.

“We learned pretty shortly after that that they were not going to make it by the end of this year and looking for an extension,” said La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat.

With 50 jobs created and only 200 more needed to reach 2,000, the city knows Optum is working towards the goal.

“In that third riverside building, they are finishing out a lot of that space and putting new employees, new jobs, and filling that up, so I think it’s only a matter of time,” said Kabat.

“They have to show a good faith effort, and that certainly has been demonstrated,” said Kader.

Optum is looking for a one-year extension, but if the jobs number is not met, the city can withhold the payments.

“For us, we basically hold on to those funds, and it’s a way to try and encourage that job creation to happen as soon as possible,” said Kabat.

City officials said employment rates in the city are high, and filling those jobs will be a challenge, but they remain confident Optum can reach the goal.

“I fully expect to see the 200 jobs filled within the next year,” said Kader.

“As long as they work and making progress to meet those goals, we typically work with them,” said Kabat.
Optum would receive $240,000 per year over a period of time if they reach the goal.

Optum spokesman Matt Stearns also released a statement to News 8 reading, “There are more than 1,800 people employed at our La Crosse campus. We are committed to creating more jobs in La Crosse and are making progress toward meeting our goal.”

The La Crosse City Council must still approve the extension. That’s expected to be taken up in January.