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Athenahealth plans big tech jobs expansion at Ponce City Market

Athenahealth, a health care technology company that was in the vanguard of tech firms that moved in-town from metro Atlanta suburbs, said Wednesday it will nearly double its workforce in the city.

The Massachusetts-based IT company plans to grow to about 1,000 workers by 2018 at the hulking former Sears Roebuck & Co. complex along the Beltline, according to a news release Wednesday from Gov. Nathan Deal’s office. The company, one of the initial corporate tenants in the complex, made a splash in 2013 when it announced plans to move about 140 workers from Alpharetta to the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, where it would also add about 500 new employees.

The move cemented Ponce City Market as an emerging hive of tech companies, and helped stimulate development along the Beltline’s Eastside trail. MailChimp, Cardlytics and HowStuffWorks are among other tech firms that have moved into the massive and historic brick warehouse formerly known as City Hall East.

“Strategic sites in key urban markets across the country — such as Atlanta — open up possibilities, helps us attract exciting new talent and resources, and affords us opportunities to host more prospects and clients,” Todd Haedrich, Athenahealth vice president and general manager of small groups, said in the release.

Software jobs from high-profile companies are coveted because they tend to be high-paying and they add to a region’s technology cachet.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Economic Development said Ponce City Market is n an Opportunity Zone, which allows companies to claim a $3,500 per year tax credit for five years for each new job created.

If Athenahealth grows to 1,000 jobs from 140, the tax credits could be worth about $15 million, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis.

It’s unclear if any city of Atlanta incentives might be in the offing. A spokesman for Invest Atlanta did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

NCR, Coca-Cola, Sage Software, GE Digital and Worldpay US are among companies that have picked in-town locations for new technology hubs in recent years. The moves have often been spurred by a desire to be close to Georgia Tech and other universities.

Health care information technology is one of Georgia’s strongest industries, and Athenahealth is one of the region’s biggest players. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the firm’s decision “cements Atlanta’s status as the center of health care IT in the U.S.”

Athenahealth produces patient medical record software and other software services for hospitals and medical practices. The company expects to add 40,000 square feet of space, up from 98,000 square feet now.

“In June 2013, we announced that Athenahealth would be expanding its presence in Georgia, creating 500 new jobs and in a little over three years we are announcing that they are doubling their workforce in Georgia,” Pat Wilson, state Department of Economic Development Commissioner, said in a news release.

“We couldn’t be more proud of this announcement as it is a true reflection of the burgeoning health information technology industry which continues to choose Georgia as its primary destination for major employment centers and headquarters operations,” he said.

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