By J. Scott Trubey


On Wednesday, Indianapolis-based Anthem, parent company of Georgia’  s largest health insurer, announced it will open an information technology center in Atlanta’  s tallest tower, Bank of America Plaza, where software developers will build apps and other customer interfaces.


The project will create 1,800 high-paying jobs over the next six years, and the company will spend $20 million outfitting the center, Anthem said. The announcement is the 18th new or expanded technology or software development center announced in Georgia in the past year, state officials said.


The Anthem deal also is a boost for Bank of America Plaza, which has been half empty for years and suffered through foreclosure in the aftershock of the financial collapse.


At a news conference at the State Capitol, Gov. Nathan Deal said the parent company of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia adds to the roster of high-tech companies with tech development centers in the state, including Honeywell, NCR and Sage Software.


“No wonder we are called the Silicon Valley of the South,”  the governor said, pledging to improve and enhance education in Georgia to maintain the flow of workers needed by Anthem and other companies.

How much Anthem will pocket in tax credits or other incentives wasn’t immediately known. Bank of America Plaza is in an Opportunity Zone, a state designated area for redevelopment that provides additional incentives when companies create jobs.


Anthem would be eligible for a $3,500 tax credit per job created for five years, or $31.5 million over that time if 1,800 jobs are created and retained. But additional grants and credits are possible.


Anthem’s announcement matches a recent expansion plan announced by NCR as the largest jobs-wise in Georgia so far in 2016. Chris Carr, the state’  s economic development chief, said the 18 new or expanded technology centers announced in the past year will ultimately total 4,500 new high-tech and well-paid jobs for the state. Such additions help balance job growth led by lower-wage service and distribution positions during the recovery from the last recession.


Anthem established an innovation studio at Technology Square at Georgia Tech earlier this year. Tom Miller, Anthem senior vice president and chief information officer, said the new tech hub will complement that facility’  s mission of improving the patient experience and care.


The center will help customers access information, buy or shop plans and connect with providers through apps and other platforms, he said. 


“Health care is a little bit of a complicated business model for our members to operate in, but technology eliminates complexity,”  Miller said.


Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said city ranks as “ a location of choice for major technology companies”  to open software and tech hubs, noting announcements this year by GE Digital and Honeywell.


Anthem and its subsidiaries have more than 73 million customers. It has about 4,200 employees in Georgia. In February, the company announced it will add 450 call center and customer care jobs through 2017 in Columbus. Georgia has more than 200 health care IT companies, according to the Institute for Healthcare Information Technology, an industry group. Major players include Athenahealth and McKesson Technology Solutions.


In April 2015, Kaiser Permanente announced plans for a new technology center in Midtown where it plans to employ 900. The Kaiser jobs included software development and cybersecurity positions.


Midtown and the area around Georgia Tech has seen a steady stream of expansions by companies, many hoping to tap faculty and student talent.


But the landmark Bank of America Plaza has seen few new tenants until now.


Nearly full when sold for a record price during the real estate boom, the giant building lost tenants and suffered the ignominy of going back to its lenders in 2012.


In January, San Francisco-based Shorenstein Properties acquired the building with promises of pumping millions in new upgrades. In February, the tower won its first major new lease in years when it landed the CDC Foundation. A little more than a year ago, the leasing team started pitching the tower as a potential hub for software development and other technology uses.