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Jobs coming to Gates County

Bryan Starnes (standing) goes over the details of an adult care facility scheduled for construction in Gates County while County Manager Toby Chappell studies the design of the building. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

GATESVILLE – A major player in the healthcare industry has announced plans to open a facility in Gates County, bringing with it 50 full-time jobs and an investment projected at $5.5 million.

The announcement came Monday during a special called meeting of the Gates County Board of Commissioners. There, with all five board members in place, Bryan Starnes of Meridian Senior Living revealed his company’s plans to manage a 70-bed adult care facility that will be constructed in the new Merchants Commerce Center located on US 158 across from Gates County High School.

Construction is expected to begin in May, 2013 and completed within a one-year period.

“This is great news for our county; first and foremost is the healthcare component for our citizens, then the fact that jobs will be available right here in Gates County, helping our citizens with employment opportunities at home instead of having to travel outside the county to find work,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Graham Twine. “Another key component of having this type of investment in our county is that it improves our tax base. That, in turn, helps to ease the tax burden on our citizens.”

Board Vice-Chairman Henry Jordan, who worked closely with Twine and County Manager Toby Chappell on this project, stated that the time invested in having such a facility built in the county was well worth the effort.

“We’re moving forward,” Jordan said. “This process didn’t happen overnight. We had a couple of roadblocks early on based on the number of adult care beds the state said we were eligible for. I guess we could have just stopped at that point and said this wasn’t worth all the red tape, but we kept pushing forward.”

Jordan explained that the state Department of Human Health Services bases a county’s “certificate of need” on its population and availability of nearby adult care facilities. Gates County’s “need” was set at 40 beds, but companies such as Meridian cannot financially justify constructing a facility that small. Perquimans County was in the same predicament with a “need” of only 30 beds.

“We worked with Perquimans to combine our state certificates of need and have 70 beds,” Twine said. “Now you become much more attractable to senior living providers to build in your area. That’s what happened here with Meridian.”

“This facility will provide quality care for your citizens that are in need of assisted living care as well as providing jobs and an increase in your tax base” said Starnes during his presentation to the board. “Gates and Perquimans County officials, especially both county managers, need to be applauded for working together. Perquimans agreed to move its 30 beds to Gates for us to build a 70-bed facility.”

Starnes said the project will be a public-private partnership. Financing comes through publically traded Real Estate Investment Trust Funds or with private equity banks that specialize in healthcare real estate projects.

Gates House, the official name of the local facility, will be managed by Meridian Senior Living. Full occupancy of the local facility is expected within 18 months. Housing and medical care for those occupants can be paid through Medicaid or private pay.

The 28,000 square foot Gates House will feature the latest style of construction used by Meridian. Double occupancy bedrooms will be offered. The facility also features a full kitchen as well as a dining room, activity room and living room, complete with Internet access. Advanced security measures are a key element of operation.

“We will offer three-star quality at a two-star price,” Starnes said.

Job opportunities will consist of a site administrator, office staff, maintenance staff, kitchen staff, activities director, dietician, an on-site registered nurse and numerous CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) positions.

Meridian is no stranger to the local area. Of the 38 properties owned or managed (or both) by Meridian in North Carolina, eight are in the northeastern part of the state – Ahoskie House, Edenton House, Currituck House, Windsor House, Williamston House, Rich Square Manor, Rich Square Villa and Hampton House in Gaston.

According to Chappell, Gates House will be listed among the largest employers and corporate taxpayers in the county. He also said the presence of the facility will hopefully help attract other businesses.

“When you put 50 workers in one certain area of the county, they automatically become consumers…they will need to purchase gas, food, generally conduct commerce before, during and after work,” Chappell noted. “Our commissioners have been extremely proactive in seeking out companies to invest in our county. We feel Gates House is just the start and we welcome them here and the employment opportunities and the increase in our local tax base that they bring.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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