Relias Learning to add 450 jobs in Cary

Relias Learning, an online training company for health care professionals, plans to hire at least 450 people over five years as part of a $4.5 million expansion.

The jobs announcement marks the biggest corporate expansion in the state since the legislature passed the controversial House Bill 2 in March. Known as HB2, the law requires, among other provisions, that in public schools and other government buildings, people use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate. The law prompted a spate of high-profile cancellations of expansions, concerts and conferences. Most prominently, PayPal reversed its decision to come to Charlotte with up to 500 jobs.

Relias announced its expansion Tuesday at its Cary headquarters with Gov. Pat McCrory and other state and local officials in attendance.

HB2 was not mentioned until a reporter asked if the law had factored into the company’s decision. Eric Masters, vice president of marketing for Relias, said he had been expecting the question.

“We’ve had tremendous success recruiting here in Cary, and we expect that success to continue,” Masters said. When asked to elaborate, he repeated the statement verbatim.

Mark Belles, Relias’ chief operating officer, cited financial incentives as the key factor in the company’s decision. Relias stands to receive $5.36 million in state Job Development Investment Grants over 12 years if it meets its hiring and investment targets. The Town of Cary will pitch in $50,000.

“We are so thrilled to receive this grant that allows us to stay here,” Belles said.

State Rep. Duane Hall, a Wake County Democrat who sponsored legislation to repeal HB2, said Relias’ announcement “pales in comparison to the jobs we’ve lost.”

Hall, whose district includes Relias’ office on Corning Road and who attended Tuesday’s announcement, was referring not only to the PayPal jobs, but also Deutsche Bank’s decision to freeze 250 jobs in Cary as well as reports by site selection officials that the state is no longer even considered by many companies looking to expand. Hall also noted that the National Basketball Association is expected to announce soon whether it will hold the 2017 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte, as previously planned, or whether it will be moved outside North Carolina.

N.C. Commerce Department spokeswoman Kim Genardo said the state has continued to add jobs since the law was enacted. Since HB2 was enacted four months ago, the governor’s office has announced that nine companies will bring a total of 1,207 jobs to the state over a range of years. That total includes Tuesday’s announcement from Relias.

Long-term growth

Relias plans to invest $4.5 million at its Cary site as part of the expansion through the end of 2020. The new jobs will include sales, marketing, product development and client support. The average annual salary was not provided by the Commerce Department.

The hiring binge will more than double the size of the 4-year-old company, which now employs 291 in Cary and 100 outside the state, including 15 people in Europe. Relias was founded in 2012 from the merger of Silver Chair Learning and Essential Learning. At the time, it had just 12 employees in Cary.

Relias is now the largest education company of its type in the world and provides online training services to nurses, social workers and other health care workers, Masters said. He noted the company will expand its product line for other markets – hospitals, physicians, urgent care and diagnostics – and this year plans to introduce a mobile app for its services.

“Our plan is that we’ll be in all areas of health care in the United States,” Masters said.

Relias clients include long-term care facilities, hospice facilities and home health care companies. Those who are trained work in the fields of senior care, behavioral health and developmental disabilities, such as autism.

Much of the training Relias provides is mandatory for the workers to maintain their professional credentials before some 115 accrediting and licensing boards in the United States. The company offers more than 2,800 courses and currently enrolls nearly 3 million students.

The company’s clients in the Triangle include the Tammy Lynn Center, Transitions LifeCare and Easter Seals. Relias is owned by German-based media and education conglomerate Bertelsmann, which also owns the Penguin Random House publishing company.

Tuesday’s announcement is a culmination of a chain of events triggered in the fall of 2014, when Bertelsmann acquired Relias from previous owner Vista Equity Partners for $540 million. Relias was eager to capitalize on market opportunities, and Bertelsmann was keen on expanding into educational services.

Masters said Relias will expand through product development and through acquisitions. Since 2012, the company has completed seven acquisitions.

John Murawski: 919-829-8932, @johnmurawski