Health insurance giant Anthem and developer Portman Holdings held a ceremonial kick off for construction Wednesday of a new 21-story Midtown office tower that will hold a technology center for the Fortune 500 company.
Anthem, the parent company of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, plans to use the new center to develop health care apps and software as a greater portion of patient care functions move from paper to digital.
In October 2016, Anthem announced plans to put 1,800 tech workers at Bank of America Plaza, but a year later, the company announced it would be the anchor tenant of the new Portman tower where it will house both staff and contracted IT professionals.
The project is adjacent to Coda, the new tower Portman is building at Tech Square that includes research space for Georgia Tech, high-powered computing capabilities and office space for corporations. Portman also has land for another tower next to the Anthem office building, which officials say could be another office tower or might feature a mix of uses.
Anthem officials have said attracting top-flight talent from Georgia Tech and accessing the research capabilities of Tech and other Atlanta area research universities were crucial parts of the decision. Atlanta’s cost-of-living, workforce and globally connected airport also were major factors.
In Anthem, the region boasts another blue-chip name on the doorstep of Georgia Tech. Financial technology company NCR recently opened the first phase of its new headquarters campus nearby, and companies including Sage Software, Worldpay and Honeywell have located major corporate offices and tech hubs in Midtown in recent years to tap into the research power and talent of Georgia Tech.
The innovation labs and headquarters that have opened in Midtown since the Great Recession span the gamut of sectors, including financial technology, health care, utilities and IT.
Kevin Green, president of the Midtown Alliance, said the Anthem project is one of 22 large scale construction projects within a square mile of Tech Square, and that same area has seen 17,000 created or announced new jobs since 2015.
The project, he said, is a testament to the growing technology ecosystem.
“Anthem, as we know, could have planted their flag anywhere,” he said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms noted the cultural anchors of Midtown as well as its transit connectivity as key pillars of Midtown’s growth.
“Great companies are choosing to come into the heart of the city,” she said.
Ambrish Baisiwala, CEO of Portman Holdings, said the tower will have a lower than typical parking ratio among Atlanta office buildings, putting greater emphasis on public transit, biking and ridesharing as commute options.
Atlanta's spate of tech announcements comes as it is in a pitched battle to win Amazon's second headquarters project, known as HQ2. Atlanta is one of 20 communities on the e-commerce and tech giant's shortlist.
Travis Garland, the head of leasing for Portman, said major corporations want proximity to Georgia Tech. Win or lose in the Amazon derby, Atlanta's placement among the top rivals for Amazon's 50,000 promised jobs puts the Atlanta technology scene on the national stage, Garland said.