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Largest Employers in Dane County — Job one: Creating jobs

Despite everything that gets thrown at them, Dane County employers continue to employ a high degree of business excellence.

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From the pages of In Business magazine.

Since 1990, IB’s Largest 100 Employers in Dane County list has been presented in one form or another. As one can imagine, a great deal of change has occurred in that time, and it’s not only reflected in the way we do business — the internet was around in 1990, but it had not yet been introduced into the private sector — but in how economic forces shaped the list.

Alternatively known as the Top 100 or the Top 200, or more recently, the Largest Employers, it began in January 1990, and it was based on annual revenue. On that inaugural list, Oscar Mayer, which no longer anchors Madison’s economy, was the top ranked company and Epic Systems, which has ranked either first or second for the better part of a decade, was still climbing the ladder.

As you review the news made by the Largest 100 employers during the past year, it’s clear that even successful employers experience workforce reductions, but with Madison boasting the lowest unemployment rate (2.8%) of any metropolitan area in the state, it’s not as difficult for laid-off workers to find new opportunities.

Some news was made in the courtroom, as perennial Largest 100 organizations such as Epic and Promega Corp. were and are involved in contentious legal disputes, while other developments spoke to the kind of business growth that’s typical of a strong economic expansion.

In this year’s presentation, UW Health takes the top spot for the second consecutive year, due mainly to its decision to merge with the UW Medical Foundation, which also ranked highly on past Largest 100 presentations.

Health care systems and insurers continue to dominate the top half of the list, but that’s a continuing reflection of local industry strengths.

We also salute a growing business — Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. — that climbed 23 spots on the list, and Journey Mental Health Center, a not-for-profit organization that debuts at No. 60.

Not-so-fake news

Not long after it surpassed Epic as Dane County’s largest employer, UW Health (No. 1) announced that due to rising costs and declining revenues, it would cut $80 million from its budget over an 18-month period. The health care system did not report how many jobs would be affected because, where possible, employees are able to move to other positions, but most cuts were expected to come from reducing labor, managing overtime, and leaving open positions vacant. Lingering uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act doesn’t help, but health care consolidation was bound to result in efficiency-focused streamlining.

As usual, it was an eventful year for Epic (No. 2), particularly in the courtroom. In May, the Verona-based electronic medical records company emerged victorious in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Epic’ favor in a dispute involving arbitration agreements. In a 5–4 decision, the nation’s high court validated the practice of requiring new workers to sign arbitration agreements, and it barred employees who sign such agreements from organizing or filing class-action lawsuits to settle workplace disputes. As a result, their complaints can only be heard and decided via corporate arbitration.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Florida dismissed a whistleblower case filed against Epic on the grounds that plaintiff Geraldine Petrowski did not provide evidence of fraud. Petrowski, who in 2014 worked with Epic as a liaison on a North Carolina software implementation, had alleged that Epic’s software allowed it to double bill the government for Medicaid- and Medicare-covered services.

Outside the courtroom, Epic completed one of its largest projects ever — $1.5 billion — when it consolidated 300 Mayo Clinic systems, an implementation that impacts 26,000 Mayo employees. The Verona-based company also announced worldwide interoperability through a technology called Share Everywhere, enabling patents (via their smartphones) to grant clinicians anywhere in the world access to their health records even if a provider doesn’t use electronic medical records.

In a noteworthy change in how Epic works with third-party software developers, the company also has developed its own EMR-based app store, the App Orchard, creating an online marketplace of software from non-Epic developers that ties back into the company’s own health records platform.

On a lighter note, Epic agreed to purchase the iconic Ella’s Deli merry-go-round, not to mention all of the toys and art from the ice cream parlor and restaurant, which closed in January. One wonders how it will be incorporated on Epic’s edgy campus design.

SSM Health (No. 3) announced it would cut 1% of its jobs, or about 350 positions in its four-state territory. The St. Louis-based owner of St. Mary’s Hospital and Dean Medical Group in Madison, says the cuts could mean the loss of at least 45 jobs in Dane County, mostly administrative positions.

Meanwhile, in an effort to combat monopolistic behavior in the drug industry, and control the cost of prescription medications, SSM Health announced a venture to manufacture generic drugs with a small group of other health systems. Since that announcement, 75 different systems throughout the country have shown interest in joining the venture.


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