COLUMBIA — The state's largest health insurance provider expects to hire 700 new employees and make $60 million in new technology investments over the next five years in Columbia.
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, headquartered in the capital city, is seeking a tax breaks from Columbia and Richland County to offset its cost.
“Columbia is well-established as having one of the country’s largest insurance technology sectors in the nation and we are a leader in this space," company spokeswoman Patti Embry-Tautenhan said. "We anticipate business growth across the organization. Moreover, as you would expect, technology evolves, which requires ongoing investment to ensure the most current capability.”
The company did not provide any additional information about the market demands driving its need for a larger workforce.
Known for now as "Project Cross," the pending tax abatement agreement calls for a fee in lieu of taxes that reduces the company's property tax rate on any new equipment purchased to six percent. The company also is seeking infrastructure credits and extensions of existing special source tax credits, which would each give them another 20 percent deduction on taxes owed for the next 10 years.
BlueCross currently has more than 14,000 workers in Richland County, making it one of the region's largest employers, according to Embry-Tautenhan.
"Blue Cross has proven to be great corporate leader in this market so to have them continue to invest in Columbia is a tremendous benefit," said Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Carl Blackstone. "That 700 jobs is tremendous growth and shows the level of commitment they have to this region."
The new jobs also play into concerted efforts by the city of Columbia and Richland County to target more high-paying, fast-growing technology and software companies with its economic development efforts.
Business leaders say this plays to the area's existing industry strengths while tech's lesser square footage requirements also provide a workaround to the competitive disadvantage of a high property tax burden.
Blackstone expects the continued growth at BlueCross to be a catalyst for more startup technology companies in this region.
The county has been on a roll of economic development deals in recent months, landing the second largest in its history when it lured in a $400 million brewery by White Claw-maker Mark Anthony Brewing. Another existing firm, Sensor Electronic Technology Inc., which specializes in LED technology, agreed in December to invest $55 million and add 40 new jobs to its facility on Atlas Road, south of Columbia.
The tax abatement agreement is expected to go before Richland County Council for its final vote in February.