Despite some public rancor over Kentucky's business climate, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. executives were expected to complete an agreement with the state over its headquarters' location late last week.
"We're going to sign this deal," David Vandewater, Columbia/HCA's chief operating officer, told MODERN HEALTHCARE late last week about the agreement.
Although the 196-hospital chain announced in March that it had chosen Louisville, Ky., over Nashville, Tenn., for its corporate headquarters, that deal looked like it might unravel earlier this month. Under the agreement, Columbia/HCA will continue managing 404-bed University of Louisville Hospital and will receive tax incentives. In exchange, Columbia/HCA agreed to keep its headquarters, with nearly 1,000 employees, in Louisville.
However, two months after announcing the deal it still had not been signed, and completion seemed to become tenuous when the company's top executive, Richard Scott, mailed a letter this month to 300 business leaders and state legislators, blasting the state for its "anti-business environment."
The letter was addressed to the Greater Louisville Economic Development Partnership, which paid for a full-page ad in the May 9 issue of MODERN HEALTHCARE (p. 5) hailing Louisville's retention of the nation's largest nongovernmental hospital chain.
The partnership had failed to inform Mr. Scott about the ad, which he called "misleading" because of the state's corporate tax structure. He estimated the state's unitary tax cost the company an additional $16 million annually, and the state's hospital provider tax adds another $10 million.
"We would be less than honest if we encouraged another healthcare provider to move to a city with the anti-business environment that we have encountered," Mr. Scott said in the letter.
The letter infuriated some state legislators and drew a sarcastic response from the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial cartoonist (See above). About the pending deal between the state and Columbia/HCA, one newspaper columnist bewailed, "The bride wants more presents."
Mr. Scott followed up with a meeting on June 9 with about a dozen government and business executives to talk about the state's tax structure. Columbia/HCA reaffirmed its support for the agreement after that meeting.