Growth by its Iowa client companies is driving further expansion by Delta Dental of Iowa, the state’s largest dental insurance provider. By early next year, the not-for-profit insurer plans to move into an expanded headquarters building twice its current size.
Delta Dental last expanded in 2010 with its move from Ankeny to its present 25,000-square-foot office in Urbandale. Now, the organization plans to invest approximately $9.3 million to add on another 25,000 square feet.
“Our expansion is earlier than we anticipated,” said Jeff Russell, Delta Dental of Iowa’s president and CEO. The growth has been driven in large part by expansions of its client companies, which has helped increase its policy numbers, Russell said. The company, which earned $69.2 million in premiums last year, has grown by about 15 percent in the past year, Russell said. By year’s end, he expects that the organization will reach 100 employees, up from 68 employees when it moved four years ago.
The expansion represents an investment in the future in more than one way, Russell said. For the past 15 years, the Iowa insurer has outsourced its information technology functions to Delta Dental of Wisconsin, but recently decided to bring those functions back in-house. “With all of the changes going on in health care, it’s important not only to be an insurance company but a technology company,” he said. “We think that’s important for our long-term future.”
To handle recent employment growth, Delta Dental has been leasing short-term office space to house some of its employees. After conducting a lease-versus-buy analysis, the organization concluded that putting all its employees back under one roof made the most sense, both from a financial and from a corporate culture perspective, Russell said.
The insurer will pay for the expansion from its capital reserves, which at the end of 2013 totaled $58.7 million. “For the last 10 or 12 years, Delta Dental has really focused on building reserves,” he said. “This allows us to do it in a way that’s prudent for our members and current number of employees.” It currently serves approximately 850,000 members, both in and out of state, and delivers access to more than 90 percent of the dentists in Iowa to employer groups and individual customers.
Delta Dental is working with the same design and construction partners – OPN Architects Inc. and Ryan Companies U.S. Inc. – that built the current structure, “They were fantastic partners, and we’re excited to engage with them in this new part,” Russell said.
With the expansion, the office building will maintain its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver designation, Russell said. “It will allow us to go back to the original standards for collaborative space as the building was originally designed,” he said.