Medica hopes to impact the community for the better and create more diversity and economic inclusion by opening its first location in St. Paul.
An office with 50 staff members will operate out of the Wilder Foundation at Lexington Parkway North and University Ave. as soon as staff return to working on site. Until then, the new staff members are working from home.
“Medica as a company has had a focus on diversity and economic inclusion – calling it out as a goal for the last couple years,” observed Medica employee Geoff Bartsh, who has lived in the Mac Groveland neighborhood for 20 years. He’s married to a St. Paul girl. “As events across Minneapolis and St. Paul unfolded last spring, with George Floyd’s death and the civil unrest that followed, all of us as employees and members of the community saw the issues related to inequality play out firsthand.”
Their Minnetonka-based staff included people across the spectrum. Some were out protesting. Other were deployed National Guard members. At listening sessions held by Medica, they learned the issues hit closer to home than many had realized, according to Bartsh.
They asked themselves: “Are we doing enough as an organization to help move this larger community forward towards a more equal and just place to live?”
“We said we could do more,” said Bartsh.
“While there is still so much we need to learn, there is one thing we know how to do. We’re an employer. We create jobs. We create good jobs.”
The starting job at Medica is in support, and staff receive training to do their jobs well. It provides a solid understanding of the company, and Medica focuses on promoting from within, Bartsh pointed out. “Many of the supervisors and senior directors in the organization started in the call center,” he said.
When they looked at their staff, they saw it was largely White, and realized they would need to be more purposeful in shifting that.
They decided to embark on a first for the organization. They would open an office location in a diverse community and pull from that community for their workers.
At Medica, Bartsh heads up the individual and family insurance division for those who don’t get insurance through their employer or get it through Medicaid. The work covers eight states. He’s been with Medica for 10 years, and wanted to be involved in this new project in part because it is four miles from his home.
Medica partnered with Greater MSP, St. Paul Chamber and the Midway Area Chamber of Commerce to narrow the location to the Wilder Foundation, which sits in a neighborhood that had been hit during the civil unrest.
It jumped to the top of the list for a few reasons, according to Bartsh.
Medica needed secure, office space suitable for its staff with access to transportation.
It is also at the corner of four unique neighborhoods.
With his experience in public policy, Bartsh also valued the philanthropic work of Wilder, especially in terms of health care and economic development issues.
“It was really a win-win-win for us,” said Bartsh.
Staff at the new office will answer calls and process claims. These are new jobs that did not exist at Medica before. Nearly all of the staff are new, although a few supervisors will come from the Minnetonka location to liaison and train. All jobs at Medica include health benefits and 401K from day one.
Medica has collaborated with Ramsey County and St. Paul to identify qualified candidates, and is working with other organizations to develop a workforce.
The goal is not only to pull from the neighborhood for the Midway office, but to expand their network for hires at the Minnetonka headquarters. The staff members who have been hired come from the five zip codes surrounding the office.
“This is step one for us,” said Bartsh. “We’re really going in with our ears open and our mouths shut. There is more we don’t know than what we do.”
Medica has regional offices in Duluth, Fargo, St. Cloud and Omaha.
“We’re excited to be part of the neighborhood,” said Bartsh. “St. Paul has been extremely welcoming.”
* Editor's note: The print version of this story incorrectly identified Geoff Bartsh as Greg Bartsh. We apologize for the error.