LEWISTON — A fast-growing San Francisco company that matches patients with doctors plans to hire up to 200 people here to establish an East Coast presence.

“We are extremely excited to be opening an office in Lewiston,” Grand Rounds spokeswoman Robin Suchan said Tuesday.

The company, which was founded in 2011 and has 250 employees, opened a second office in Reno, Nevada, last year.

“It’s great to see the success there and we’re now excited to grow to Lewiston and keep the momentum,” she said.

Lewiston had been one of several locations along the East Coast, and within the state, that Grand Rounds scouted for its new site, according to development officials who pointed to the group effort involved in landing the company. Platz Associates, the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council, Maine & Company, the Maine Department of Labor, the governor’s office and congressional delegation staff, among others, all met with the company in the past several months.

“These are folks coming from San Francisco,” said Maine & Company President Peter DelGreco. “A lot of them, the idea ‘Why Maine?’ didn’t necessarily feel logical to them.” 

DelGreco said some of that work involved introducing Grand Rounds’ executives to other Maine companies: “Businesspeople coming in, ‘You can do this here. You absolutely can do this here.'”

Grand Rounds works with large employers, typically with 1,000 or more employees, to augment existing insurance plans, describing itself as helping deliver healthier outcomes, faster.

“Our service is matching patients with a physician either in their community or anywhere in the U.S. — it can be an in-person visit or a remote second opinion — who is the most suited to serve them and their medical needs,” Suchan said.

“Health care is a very challenging space,” Suchan said. “The part that makes it more challenging for the patient is knowing where to start and how not to get lost. When you’re going through some of these very trying times, trying to navigate the health care system on top of it is really taxing. Just the idea of being that helping hand, to take a patient through that process and let them focus on getting better, is really how the company started.”

That sort of early guidance saves employers time and money, Suchan said.

According to Grand Rounds, 66 percent of patients who open a case with them experience a change in diagnosis or treatment, 40 percent of cases result in surgery cancellations and employees return to work two times faster.

The service covers more than 2 million employees.

Grand Rounds has started training and hiring for positions known as care coordinators in Lewiston.

Danielle Snow, Grand Rounds’ vice president of Care Operations, who is overseeing many of the local details, is originally from Lewiston. She said plans call for hiring 30 people by the end of the year and growing to 200 employees over five years.

It’s setting up a temporary home in the Great Falls Plaza in Auburn soon while finalizing lease space in the Bates Mill complex, she said.

Suchan expects some but not all new hires will have health care backgrounds. The company has a preference for people with four-year degrees and customer service experience. Positions will be full-time, with benefits.

“You get to work directly with patients each day,” she said. “It’s a challenging and rewarding role, for sure.”

Lincoln Jeffers, Lewiston’s economic and community development director, said Grand Rounds didn’t ask the city for any incentives but does want to enter a long-term lease for parking, likely in the Lincoln Street garage, with 50 space to start, growing to 150.

“I think it talks to the caliber of our workforce and the attractiveness of the downtown and the Bates Mill as a site,” Jeffers said. “This is what we’ve been working for: Folks can look at Portland and pay significantly higher rents or have very, very nice space in a city that’s on the rise. The whole Riverfront Island Master Plan and the proximity to the river and the restaurants, the trail system — I think all those things, it’s my sense of what helped give us a leg up.”

Matt Leonard, president of the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, believed, too, that infrastructure was a draw: “I think of note, that we don’t say enough, we’re the most connected community in the state of Maine. We have well over 200 miles of fiber buried underneath our streets — that’s exponentially more than Portland or South Portland. This is actually ripe to be a hotbed for the IT industry as a whole.”

The news is a great example of teamwork, according to LAEGC President John Holden.

“Platz Associates called us,” Holden said. “They had this client, they needed some data to show Lewiston was competitive on wage and lease rates compared to other places in Maine and the East Coast.

“In 24 hours, we were able to turn that data around,” he said. “Everyone played a role in this. They saw that it worked and that they could find the workforce and have a great place for people to work.”

Developer Tom Platz added, “Always nice to have new employers move into the Lewiston-Auburn area, so that’s particularly satisfying to know people are hearing about the mill and they’re interested in this area.”

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