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Epic Systems growth defies economy

VERONA, WI -- In a year when many employers were talking pay cuts or layoffs, Epic Systems Corporaton. continues to be a glaring exception.

The healthcare software company based in Verona, Wisconsin, a small suburban/rural town located near Madison, added nearly 600 employees in the past 12 months, growing to about 4,000 staff as it continues to position itself as a major player in the booming field of electronic medical records.

Epic Campus
   Photo by Jim Ferolle/Verona Press
Evidence of Epic's growth isn't hard to find. Since mid-2009, the company opened four new uniquely themed office buildings - dubbed Isis, Juno, Kohoutek and Heaven - that added 1,650 more single-occupancy offices. To date, more than 3,600 employees now work in the $500 million-plus Verona campus, while most of the rest are at Epic's former home in Madison, as well as 35 employees in the Netherlands.

And as has been the case since it started building in Verona five years ago, Epic isn't showing signs of slowing down.

By the fall of 2011 , the company plans to add a 139,000-square-foot expansion on to the 600,000-square foot Learning Center that opened in 2007. And on Campus 2 - the latest set of buildings, now called the Central Park Campus - Epic still wants to add Lyra, the company's second dining facility, by September 2011, company chief administration officer Steve Dickmann told town's local newspaper, the Verona Press.
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Dickmann added that beyond the current plans for fall of 2011, the company has considered a third set of office buildings in addition to the Central Park and Prairie campuses, though he said “there's no specific design yet” and no timetable established.

Beyond all that construction and new staff, the company also spent the past year stoking plans to reduce its carbon footprint.

While all 12 of Epic's buildings now rely heavily on geothermal energy for heating and cooling, that's just the start. This fall, the company is planning to begin covering its outdoor parking spots with an array of 1,287 photovoltaic cells. And beyond that, officials have drummed up plans to possibly add a 15-acre solar farm, a biomass digester and a few wind turbines to derive much of the company's current consumption from alternative sources.

Installing the first wave of solar panels had to wait, however, for last week's Users' Group Meeting, which - in another sign of the company's growth - was the largest yet in the company's history.

In addition to the company's nearly 4,000 employees on site, more than 5,300 customers and clients signed up to attend part or all of the company's four-day user group meet (UGM) conference that included educational sessions, social gatherings and entertainment that fit this year's theme of “UGM: The Musical.”

The annual meeting included a presentation by company co-founder and chief executive, Judy Faulkner, who said the company has 225 health-care clients and that once all of Epic's systems are implemented, they will cover between 75 million and 105 million patients, or about 30 percent of the U.S. population. Revenues for 2009 topped $650 million.

Epic continues to be a major benefactor for civic and school groups its local community. In January, it doled out $30,000 to the Verona Police Department for new in-car cameras, $20,000 to the Verona Public Library to help pay for an electronic book-sorting system, $12,000 to the Verona Fire Department for a fire-extinguisher simulator and $6,000 to the senior center for a diabetes awareness program.

In addition, the company annually donates $10,000 to the local food pantry, and just last week, the Verona Area School District accepted another $11,000 to fund reading and math programs, among other things. Schools superintendent Dean Gorrell said at the Sept. 20 meeting that Epic's donations to the district over the years have totaled roughly $117,000.

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