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Anthem incentives could top $50 million for Atlanta center

Health care giant Anthem could be eligible for more than $50 million in incentives from the state if it meets certain benchmarks in establishing a technology center in Atlanta, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A state Department of Economic Development spokeswoman said the parent of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia will file for what’s known as Mega Project Tax Credits, which are reserved for high job-count projects.

Economic development officials and elected leaders say incentives often are a necessary part of winning corporate recruitment battles, but critics deride such perks as corporate welfare.

Anthem said Wednesday it plans to create more than 1,800 jobs at the new $20 million center in Bank of America Plaza.

“We have a long history in the state already and have made other significant investments including our Innovation Center in Tech Square and a new facility in Columbus,” Gene Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Anthem, said in an email. “So, we are committed to the state and its workforce. Our plan is to continue to grow our footprint in the state over the next six years and tap into its talent pipeline.”

To receive the mega credits, companies must create at least 1,800 jobs and meet one of two other requirements: spending more than $450 million on a facility, or having an annual payroll of $150 million.

If Anthem meets the goals, the company could receive a $5,250 credit for each new jobs for five years. That could total $47.25 million over five years.

On Wednesday, the state also announced Anthem will receive a $3.6 million grant to help induce the move, boosting the potential total to $50.85 million, or more than $28,000 per job.

Local incentives also are possible. A spokesman for Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, said the agency intends to ask the Atlanta City Council for an Economic Opportunity Fund grant, which comes from the city’s general fund.

“While [an incentive package] was not the primary reason Atlanta was chosen as a core location, we are excited to partner with the state to build a relationship with the community while growing our footprint in the area,” Anthem said in a statement.

The Anthem announcement was the 18th new or expanded technology or software development center announced in Georgia in the past year, state officials said. It’s a boost for Atlanta both as a tech hub and for Bank of America Plaza, the city’s tallest tower, which has been about half-empty for years.

The tower rises in what’s known as an Opportunity Zone, an area designated for redevelopment. If Anthem does not meet the thresholds for mega credits, the company could still be eligible to receive Opportunity Zone credits totaling $3,500 per new job for five years.

Anthem’s new tech hub will develop apps and other platforms to engage customers and help them shop for health plans and connect with care providers, company officials said.

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