South Carolina

eviCore extends lease at Bluffton headquarters

eviCore's building at Buckwalter Place on Dec. 5, 2014.
eviCore's building at Buckwalter Place on Dec. 5, 2014. HiltonHead

One of Bluffton’s biggest employers is sticking around town for a while longer.

eviCore, a managed healthcare benefits firm formerly known as CareCore National, signed a five year lease extension earlier this month on its nearly 80,000-square-foot corporate headquarters in Buckwalter Place.

“Bluffton has been very good to us,” Eli Wahesh, eviCore’s executive vice president of corporate operations. “That definitely factored into our decision (to renew the office lease). And we are definitely committed to the community.”

The company relocated its headquarters from New York to Bluffton in 2006.

They have such a major impact on our town economically.

Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka

eviCore employs roughly 600 employees who live in the greater Bluffton area, Wahesh said.

Both Beaufort County and S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce documents list the company as one of the top 20 largest employers in the county.

“They have such a major impact on our town economically,” Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka said earlier this week. “I’m am thrilled they are sticking around.”

We started doing some research into alternate sites.

eviCore executive Eli Wahesh

eviCore renewing its lease and keeping its headquarters in Bluffton was by no means a forgone conclusion.

Sulka said there have been times in recent years when she and other Bluffton officials worried that when its lease expired the company would pull up stakes and relocate, particularly in the aftermath of the recent economic recession.

Town leaders long hoped to make Buckwalter Place into a business park that would attract technology or medical industry firms — which tend to pay higher wages than the service industry — to compliment eviCore’s headquarters.

That hasn’t happened.

Rather, the town entered a public-private partnership last year with Southeastern Development Associates, which owns a large undeveloped swath of the shopping area. The developer plans to build a 113,000-square-foot Kroger Marketplace surrounded by other retailers and apartments.

The building that houses eviCore’s headquarters is owned by Carecore Properties LLC, which Wahesh said is “a completely seperate entity from eviCore.” He would not comment on the rental amount eviCore pays under current or prior lease agreements.

Wahesh said the company did consider moving its headquarters prior to renewing the lease.

“We started doing some research into alternate sites,” he said. “But ultimately we decided that the best Bluffton option for us.”

eviCore’s lease keeps the company in Bluffton through 2021, and “in terms of outs, I don't think there are any provisions like that,” Wahesh said.

Rather than bailing on Bluffton, the company appears to be digging in. It recently purchased a tract of town-owned land in Buckwalter Place and plans to use it for an open gathering space for employees.

“We will also be doing some improvements to the building itself as part of the recent (lease) renewal,” Wahesh said.

While the company will remain in Bluffton for now, Sulka said the local leaders need to be “proactive with them and make (the town) a place they never want to leave.”

“At the end of the day if something to happen (and the company left), it isn’t going to be for lack of trying,” she said.