New jobs coming to industrial building

One of the country’s largest medical helicopter services, whose roots started in south central Missouri, will open a business office in Houston in a move that will cover about 6,000 square feet and employ as many as 50, the firm announced this week.

It is the second consecutive week that a firm announced plans to offer new jobs in the community. The Durham Co. said last week it plans to expand its Houston operation.

Air Evac Lifeteam, the largest independently owned and operated membership-support air medical service in the United States, will occupy space in a Houston Development Co. building on Spruce Street in Houston.

Renovations will begin soon on the structure, which once housed the Lee Co. garment company, said Debbie Wilson, billing manager for the company that has bases in 14 states and flies in nearly every state in the country.

“We’re really pleased,” said Mike Manier, president of Houston Development Co. whose shareholders are those interested in the growth of Houston. The firm signed a five-year lease with some options.

Ron Reed, the economic development director for the City of Houston, said the firm’s decision comes after about three years of talks to assist the fast-growing company who is one of the largest employers in West Plains. Reed credits Wilson for making the firm’s partnership with the community a reality. The need for an additional labor pool to meet its growth was a driving force in the company’s decision, Reed said.

Its West Plains operation will not be affected by the addition of the office, whose primary function will be to act as patient advocates to help with issues related to use of the medical helicopter company and assist clients with any billing issues, said Wilson, who lives in Houston and has been associated with the firm since July 1996. It launched from West Plains in 1985 and has136 workers assigned to account receivable functions.

Other factors in the company’s decision to locate here: The availability of fiber optics for communications and electronic filing computer needs, the building’s location is in the central part of the community and the availability of exercise opportunities for employees. The high school track is nearby and a new walking trail will pass right by the company’s soon-to-be front door.

Reed said work will begin immediately to transform the building to meet the company’s needs. Occupancy is expected in the spring. Partitions, new walls and drop ceilings will be created. Windows will be situated on the west side of the building and heating and cooling issues addressed.

Wilson said the firm will begin a six- to eight-week intensive training program for new employees; some from this region who travel to West Plains will be assigned to the Houston office. Persons interested in a job opportunity can go online at Click on corporate and then finance.

Another organization earlier announced plans to operate in the building, and work is under way on that project. The Exceptional Child Cooperative, which provides specialized educational services in south-central Missouri, will operate from the building in about 7,000 square feet. It signed a lease earlier with the Houston Development Co.

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