The Queen City is often referred to as the crown jewel of the South and with good reason. As the “biggest small town” in the Southeast, Charlotte offers the right combination of culture, southern hospitality and industry, all in a metropolitan setting with an easy-to-love climate and a world-class airport that makes it an easy sell for talent recruitment and relocation. No matter who you talk to, business leaders all say the same thing:
Charlotte is that rare gem that all are grateful to have discovered – a city with a growing health care hub that is home to some of the national and international leaders in the health care and life sciences fields.
The health care industry employs 11 percent of people in the Charlotte region, with more than 116,000 working in the field. Charlotte has a broad range of companies in the health care business that focus on everything from manufacturing to the supply chain and information gathering, and many of these companies work together, building strategic partnerships simply because they are located here, in the same region. They also work closely with the area’s universities, relying on them for research and development and talent recruitment.
It all starts with the hospitals that call Charlotte home. Both Carolinas Medical Center, the flagship hospital of Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System, and Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Winston-Salem based Novant Health’s Charlotte flagship, were recently named among the 100 Great Hospitals in America by Becker’s Hospital Review.
Carolinas HealthCare System
Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) is an internationally acclaimed institution and one of the largest public and most comprehensive systems in the United States. With more than 40 owned and managed hospitals and approximately 900 other care locations including physicians’ offices, emergency departments and nursing homes, CHS employs 61,000 people and manages an $8 billion budget. Premier facilities include the Levine Cancer Institute, Levine Children’s Hospital, Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute and The Transplant Center.
In addition to patient care, research is a core mission for CHS, and there are almost 700 active clinical studies that span the spectrum of medical disciplines looking at everything from cancer and emergency medicine to surgery and more.
CEO Michael C. Tarwater has been with CHS for more than 30 years and says success and growth come naturally when you’re based in a city like Charlotte. “Simply put, Charlotte is a great product to sell, and the resulting growth has benefitted businesses large and small, as well as not-for-profit and philanthropic organizations,” he said.
Q&A with Michael C. Tarwater
What is the appeal of doing business in Charlotte?
Whenever I travel, I find that Charlotte enjoys a tremendous reputation as a place to do business and raise a family; and, as a resident who has done that for more than three decades, I can attest that it is true. The region’s many attractions include a thriving business community, professional and amateur sports, the arts, culture, education, recreation, outdoor spaces and religious life, and let’s not forget health care. Undergirding all of that is a diversified economy that has provided an unusual degree of stability, despite the overseas migration of textile, furniture and other manufacturing jobs in recent decades.
How has being located in Charlotte contributed to your organization’s growth?
We are blessed in Charlotte to have a number of organizations dedicated to economic growth and community development in addition to the chamber.
Can you speak to some of the partnerships Carolinas HealthCare System has with other companies here in town and how those partnerships benefit the companies involved?
At this point, in fact, we have partnerships with more than 3,000 companies in a 13-county region. And that number will continue to increase as the delivery of health care services becomes more and more decentralized. One of our key partnerships is with Premier, Inc., an enterprise that provides consulting services, data analytics and supply chain solutions. More than 2,900 U.S. hospitals and nearly 100,000 other providers work together in an alliance with Premier to enhance quality, safety and customer service.
Why do you consider Charlotte an emerging health care hub?
Charlotte is fortunate to have two well-established health care systems that include acute care hospitals, a wide variety of physician practices and many other types of care locations. In addition, we have a wide variety of excellent physicians and other providers who operate independently. In fact, many of the programs in this area are so highly regarded that people are coming here more and more from other parts of the country. We also have many medical research programs that have attracted some of the world’s top experts.
I have already mentioned Premier, and there are of course many other firms that help to support the health care sector, including Cardinal Health, Inc., with a distribution center in Charlotte; Linet Americas in Charlotte; and Rubbermaid Healthcare in Huntersville.
The health care sector of the economy will continue to play a significant role in Charlotte’s economy as time goes on, particularly given the influence of aging baby boomers and of course the impact of Charlotte’s steady growth. “Simply put, Charlotte is a great product to sell, and the resulting growth has benefitted businesses large and small, as well as not-for-profit and philanthropic organizations.”
Health Care Wages and Occupations
Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center
It may not have Tom Cruise, but Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, one of four greater Charlotte area Novant Health facilities, is clearly taking a page from the “Mission Impossible” playbook with the unveiling of its newest patient technology. It’s called biometric iris scanning and means that if a patient is unidentified, found unconscious and brought to the emergency room, a quick scan of their retina will reveal not only who they are but also their complete medical history.
The electronic health record technology is just one part of a major growth spurt at Novant Health.
The $3.4 billion hospital system has spent the past few years becoming one of the most comprehensive health care providers in the state, building a diversified network that now includes 15 hospitals, hundreds of outpatient facilities and 350 physician practices in four states.
Dr. Andy Mueller is the senior vice president for physician services for Novant Health’s greater Charlotte market, and he says there are important things that set Charlotte apart from the other markets with Novant Health providers.
“I think Charlotte is a phenomenal place for health care because of the incredible infrastructure we have in place. There are two hospital systems with incredible staffs. I don’t think people understand the quality of physicians we have here in Charlotte and the number of independent physician practices in the Charlotte area. We have incredibly talented physicians and that gives us a huge advantage. There’s a great environment for innovation here not only at Novant but at some of our other academic partners: UNC Charlotte and the North Carolina Research Campus at Kannapolis, and there are also a number of information technology corporations located here in Charlotte.”
“One of the things that really sets the stage in Charlotte is that we have an incredible competitor across the street, and as a result both systems have very robust staffs and we have an opportunity to push ourselves to ensure we’re delivering the greatest care with the highest technology while continuing to be affordable.”
So you don’t have to be Tom Cruise to afford the retina scan.
Pelton & Crane
“Most people recognize our name because they’ve seen it while sitting in the dentist’s chair. … They look up at the light and there it is,” said Matt Garrett, the vice president of marketing for Pelton & Crane.
For most of us, a trip to the dentist’s office is not exactly like a day at the spa. But Pelton and Crane is changing that. Industry leaders will tell you the Charlotte-based company is known for helping outfit upscale dentist offices that, well, look and feel like a spa.
It makes sense that the company was co-founded by a dentist and an engineer way back in 1900. Today, Pelton & Crane produces a complete line of dental chairs and other equipment generating $200 million in revenue annually. It falls under the larger umbrella of parent company, Kavo Kerr group, a $2 billion enterprise that is the largest dental company in the world. Kavo Kerr is part of the $20 billion Danaher Corporation, a Fortune 75 company.
Pelton & Crane has been in Charlotte since the 1950s, but in the past few years, the company’s 30-acre northwest Charlotte campus has seen major growth. “We relocated another facility from Oregon to Charlotte three years ago, so we added another 30,000 square feet. Instead of having two manufacturing facilities, we consolidated into one central hub here in Charlotte. We added 50 jobs when we did that,” Garrett said.
He says the resource pool and the talent supply here are the reasons the company has flourished. “The traditional work ethic and commitment from folks in the Southeast has always been very good. We’re growing, we just continue to grow. Not only are we investing in our business but we continue to expand the facility. We’ve gone through two modernizations and expansions in the last four years.”
Garrett says the Queen City is also a big draw for the many visitors the company has each year.
“We bring 600 to 700 doctors in a year for continuing education and training. Obviously US Airways makes it very easy to get people in and out of Charlotte and the warm climate helps. We find with our dentists, they’ve all heard of Charlotte but not many have visited. It’s one of those ‘I’ve always wanted to go’ places. People are always intrigued and once here, everyone always thinks Charlotte is a neat city. They enjoy being here.”
Most people think Meredith Dolhare, a 40-year-old mother of two, is nuts. A professional long distance runner, she has completed 25 marathons, competed in 12 Ironman competitions and run 135 miles across the desert for what’s called an “Ultra Marathon.” And she did it all after her world-renowned foot surgeon at OrthoCarolina fixed the foot that was broken so badly it should have been a career-ending injury.
Dr. Robert Anderson is used to dealing with professional athletes. As the team doctor for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, he recently performed surgery on rookie of the year quarterback Cam Newton, and he and the other doctors at Charlotte’s OrthoCarolina are so good that when Yankees superstar Derek Jeter needed ankle surgery, he flew from New York to the Queen City for treatment.
OrthoCarolina is one of the nation’s largest private orthopedic groups in the country with 34 offices in the Charlotte region and a million patients treated every year. Its expertise in the areas of foot and ankle, hand, hip and knee, shoulder and elbow, spine, sports medicine and pediatrics offers a continuum of care unmatched anywhere in the country.
Doctors at Charlotte’s OrthoCarolina are so good that when Yankees superstar Derek Jeter needed ankle surgery, he flew from New York to the Queen City for treatment.
Because of its reputation, a quarter of the practice’s patients come from out of town, and its residency and fellowship programs are among the most coveted in the country. “If you bring someone in as a fellow, they see Charlotte, they love the weather and they want to stay in Charlotte. We hire a lot of our own fellows. We have quite a few physicians who have done their residency at CMC and their fellowship at OrthoCarolina,” said Blair Primis, the director of marketing and public relations for OrthoCarolina.
“When you look at the size of OrthoCarolina, the size of Carolinas HealthCare System, those are two giant things going on and people want to come here for all the other reasons too – because there are jobs available for spouses, cool neighborhoods, a robust college system. … People just think this is a really cool place to live and work in health care,” Primis added.
Over the past few years, OrthoCarolina has also focused on growing its nonprofit research arm, the OrthoCarolina Research Institute. There, doctors perform research and education, developing and pioneering revolutionary treatments and techniques. They average more than 20 FDA clinical trials a year, testing devices for everything from the elbows to the knees.
Primis points out, “From a research perspective, having two major hospitals in town is very helpful. Access to research candidates is very rich. We have a deep bench we can go to to produce a lot of good research right here in Charlotte.”
Call it a one stop shop for health care providers. Charlotte-based Premier, Inc. helps approximately 3,000 U.S. hospitals and 110,000 other providers drive better care and outcomes at a lower cost.
With 1,600 employees, Premier maintains one of the nation’s largest comparative databases, allowing it to track and share clinical, financial and operational data. It also operates one of the nation’s largest group purchasing organizations, helping its members purchase quality medical supplies in bulk.
Q&A with Susan D. DeVore, President and CEO of Premier
Your company moved its headquarters from San Diego to Ballantyne in south Charlotte a few years ago – why?
Premier employees take great pride – as do I – in being a Charlotte-based company. Charlotte is a leading community for technology and health care. Many nationally recognized health systems are based in the area, as are a number of our 1,100 suppliers on contract. And considering that we have members across the country, ease of access to the airport is of importance. All of this adds up to an area teeming with great talent that companies like Premier can leverage.
What has Premier’s growth experience been since moving to Charlotte?
We have been pleased with our growth since moving to Charlotte. Our employee base has grown by 37 percent since we moved the headquarters here. We’ve also grown our number of member hospitals and health care systems in North Carolina significantly in the past several years. In addition, we conducted the largest IPO [initial public offering] in Charlotte’s history last October.
We intend to execute on our business strategies and long-term growth plans over the next several years. Premier may not be the largest company, but we believe we are having a really big impact locally and nationally.
How would you describe Charlotte in terms of supporting the business community?
I think it’s a wonderful place to learn, network and build relationships. The city as a whole is very innovative, and its business climate is quite diverse with significant footprints in industries ranging from health care to energy to financial services. And it certainly helps that the local chamber is very progressive.
CEOs often talk about Charlotte being an easy sell when recruiting.
Charlotte is a fantastic place to live. It’s affordable, has excellent schools and many opportunities for employment. We’re being recognized nationally more often for all of these and other attributes. … For us, it meets all of the work and technological needs of the company, as well as lifestyle needs of our employees.
Do you consider Charlotte a health care hub?
Absolutely! Charlotte has already established itself as a national leader for high-quality, innovative health care, with some of the nation’s most innovative health care systems and top medical supply and pharmaceutical companies located here. Since progressive employers demand high value health care for their employees, having such a strong health care presence is fundamental to the region’s ability to grow and attract companies across diverse industries.
What sort of partnerships do you have in the community?
We are involved in a number of innovative local partnerships. For example, we collaborate with Carolinas HealthCare System to improve care quality and efficiency.
Premier also works closely with the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, which is one of the only universities in the country to offer a graduate degree in health care informatics. As an information technology company, finding and attracting top talent is a priority for us, so this program has proven to be extremely valuable.
Since 2010, we have partnered with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte to offer Premier employee-only sports leagues, and on-site yoga and other exercise classes.
Charlotte really offers a robust working environment. I’m confident we’ll continue to build on our reputation as both a great place to work and live.
“Even the toilet paper dispensers are part of Microban products,” said Ivan Ong, the vice president of research and development at Microban International, when describing the company’s Huntersville headquarters. Much of the 51,000-square-foot building is a living showcase of what it has to offer. “We designed the building from the ground up using paint, the countertops, the flooring – all with Microban antimicrobial product protection,” Ong explained.
Microban technology provides 24/7 protection from bacteria, mold and mildew for household and commercial products. It’s used in more than 1,000 products – everything from baby changing tables to cutting boards – manufactured by 250 of the largest companies in the world. (Think GAP, Sherwin Williams and Bissell.)
The 7-acre campus is home to one of the world’s largest microbiology labs. That’s where quality control and product testing and development are carried out. The company has grown so much that there are now 70 employees, and the lab that was once a small part of the facility now takes up half of the headquarters.
Ong says being in the Charlotte region has made that kind of exceptional growth possible. “Charlotte has tremendous infrastructure, we have manufacturers here that make all of our products and they are very conveniently located. We have partnerships with great universities, we have recruited from UNC Charlotte and we’re so close to Wake Forest, Chapel Hill and Duke that we get talent from those schools as well.”
Like for many international companies based in the Queen City, Ong says the airport is a major asset that is important for global travel and staying well-connected domestically. “Charlotte offers all the elements necessary for a business to grow. There’s trucking transportation, world-class airports, the banks. … There is a lot of support in Charlotte for business.” But he says what really makes the Charlotte business community so attractive is the quality of life the community offers for workers.
“The Charlotte metro area offers many living options for our employees. It is centrally located between the coastal and mountain regions, and Charlotte has thriving commerce and employment opportunities, as well as area cultural and entertainment options that all contribute to attracting talent to our company,” he said.
Microban also relies on strategic partnerships with the hospitals in the area, collaborating with them on developing technologies for infection control. “We’re looking at more innovative and preventative measures for deploying our products in hospitals. We’re doing a lot of research in that area from medical devices to disinfectants, and working with local hospitals is important to help us identify trends and health care practitioner needs.”
When Linet Americas President and CEO Colin Bain first came to check out Charlotte, he knew immediately his wife and three teenagers would fall in love with their new hometown as quickly as he did. “We were living in Wisconsin when we moved here and during my first trip down to house hunt and look for office space, it was in the mid-70s and sunny. I flew back to Wisconsin where it had snowed four inches.” That was 2009. The Bains have settled in nicely, and more importantly, so has the $20 million company Colin runs.
Linet Americas is a division of Czech Republic-based parent company Linet, which makes and exports hospital beds to more than 100 countries worldwide. The beds are designed to make in-room patient care easier and healthier, and the company opened its 11,000-square-foot North American headquarters in Charlotte in April 2010.
Since then, the company has doubled its business every year in terms of revenue. In 2013, it did $20 million. In 2015, the hospital bed manufacturer is on track to make $40 million. “We’ve had a very aggressive growth curve,” Bain said, attributing the spectacular growth in part to Charlotte’s business friendly environment, prime location along the Eastern Seaboard, and Charlotte’s growing health care hub.
“For vendors and suppliers, being close to Premier is a big benefit. We had many meetings with top people at Premier simply because of where we’re located.” Bain says Charlotte is also a very pro-business town. “There’ a real can-do attitude. People want you to succeed so they’re very helpful in getting you connected.”The company has established relationships at UNC Charlotte. “We work with the MBA program there. The marketing classes have helped us solve problems and we have some projects with the people at the business school.”
Things have been going so well, Bain says the company plans to add a manufacturing plant to its Charlotte facilities in the next two to three years.
“It’s easy to do business here in terms of utility and labor costs, and I’d like to create new jobs here and put down more roots. I want to stay here; I don’t want to leave because I love it. It’s a modern city and it doesn’t have the headaches a lot of other big cities have. You can go to the mountains in an hour and a half, the beach in three hours. … It’s just got a good feeling to it,” Bain said. The kind of feeling he didn’t quite get in Wisconsin.
The story of Groninger is also one of growth since relocating to Charlotte almost a decade ago. The German company makes machines for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, processing everything from mascara and lip gloss containers to syringes, vials and eye droppers for all the makeup and drug industry giants. “We felt like it was financially a better move for us to come to Charlotte,” said Lothar Burger, the general manager for U.S. operations.
When Groninger USA relocated its headquarters from just outside of Hoboken, New Jersey, to Charlotte in 2006, it had only three employees. Now there are 29, and the company is regularly creating new positions at its 28,000-square-foot facility.
“We felt like Charlotte was a better breeding ground to enlarge our operations. We started out as a small business with technical sales support and then we recognized quickly that we wanted to add to that, so we started our own manufacturing and assembly line in 2009.”
Groninger also built a new high-tech energy efficient facility in 2012 on a five-acre campus with plenty of room to grow. And it’s a good thing. The company has created retrofitting machines and training classes that will mean expanding offerings and adding more jobs.
Burger says the jobs are easy to fill because there’s a big international population in Charlotte, including a skilled German workforce. “Our vendors are used to dealing with German companies and Charlotte has a great German community for us to recruit from.”
The company also finds talent by working very closely with the apprenticeship program at Central Piedmont Community College, recently creating its own apprenticeship program in conjunction with the community college. Burger said, “We have found that we can use the community college to help train existing workers to do exactly what we need.”
Octapharma Plasma Inc.
Octapharma Plasma Inc. is an industry leader in the safe harvesting of quality human plasma for use in medicines that treat a range of conditions.
Plasma, the part of the blood that carries red and white blood cells and platelets, is rich in protein and disease-fighting properties and is a vital ingredient in many lifesaving medicines. At Octapharma PIasma’s Charlotte headquarters, the company is expanding, building a $40 million state-of-the-art testing laboratory, plasma storage and corporate facility. The company operates 45 plasma collection centers across the U.S., so the new facility will support continued growth as it plans to open new centers.
Octapharma Plasma moved to Charlotte from Atlanta in 2009, and the company has consistently grown since making the move. Its workforce has already doubled, and the company expects to double again when its current expansion plan is complete. “The decision to expand our footprint here in Charlotte was an easy one,” said Octapharma Plasma’s chief operating officer, Judy Smith. “Charlotte has a lot to offer businesses. It is conveniently located … with a growing transit system. It is a dynamic hub for numerous and diverse local and global businesses, and it is home to a highly educated and experienced workforce. Charlotte is also a desirable community for working professionals and their families, offering all the amenities of a vibrant ‘big city’ while cultivating its southern heritage and ‘small town’ charm. We are happy to call Charlotte our home,” Smith added.
And she believes it helps to be located in the heart of a growing health care hub. “I think Charlotte is growing in terms of the medicine of the future. At Octapharma Plasma, we are invested in the communities where we live and work, helping to contribute to a thriving local economy, creating jobs and providing valued services. We see ourselves as a partner in Charlotte’s growing and diverse health care community.”
Many of the companies that call Charlotte home work closely with the area’s colleges and universities.
The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is North Carolina’s urban research university and is the fourth largest campus among the 17 institutions of the University of North Carolina system. The school recently teamed with Premier, Inc. to help care providers improve health in communities nationwide.
The North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis is a 350-acre research center located just north of Charlotte. Corporations, universities and health care organizations have forged a public-private partnership that is transforming science at the intersection of human health, nutrition and agriculture.
President Barack Obama praised Central Piedmont Community College in his 2013 State of the Union address, calling on other companies to copy the success of the CPCC programs that pair businesses and community colleges to maximize workforce development.
The Presbyterian School of Nursing at Queens University of Charlotte upholds a tradition of more than a century of excellence in the development of our current and future nursing workforce. The Presbyterian School of Nursing is comprised of over 20 full-time faculty and more than 250 students in its BSN and MSN programs.
Carolinas HealthCare System also offers several highly regarded regional nursing education programs including Mercy School of Nursing and Carolinas College of Health Sciences. And in Concord, Cabarrus College of Health Sciences is located on the campus of Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast.
A growing health care hub that maximizes strategic partnerships within the industry and the community, Charlotte’s an exciting place to live and work. “I think it is the crown jewel of the South,” said Premier, Inc. CEO Susan D. DeVore. “It’s a beautiful place, a friendly place and it has enough art and science and enough health care and education that it really just has everything you need.”