Chattanooga: Big BlueCross moment Employees begin pilgrimage to new HQ

Chattanooga: Big BlueCross moment Employees begin pilgrimage to new HQ

January 27th, 2009 by Mike Pare in Business

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Allan Higgins, one of the employees moving into the new Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee headquarters building on Cameron Hill early Monday morning, recieves a gift bag from Denise Thompson as he walks through the entrance.

Chris Smith used to work in a basement office in one of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's 10 buildings around Chattanooga.

Not any more. Mr. Smith is one of the first of the 3,700 employees who will move into the insurer's new glass-and-brick walled corporate campus atop Cameron Hill.

"It's really nice," said Mr. Smith on Monday as he checked in for work at the first of the office buildings ready for occupancy at the site holding commanding views of downtown and the Tennessee River.

BlueCross, starting what will be a six-month move-in, also enters a new era with the opening of the $299 million headquarters, according to the company.

Bob Worthington, a BlueCross senior vice president, said the facility "almost exceeds the vision" of officials at the health insurer.

"This is a big day," he said.

BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Thompson said the consolidation of 3,700 people in the company's nearly 4,500-member work force in the city will better position the company and its subsidiaries as "a national health care solutions company."

The company expects to gain added workplace efficiencies and work force productivity at it competes in an ever-increasing competitive marketplace.

"It's designed to increase communication and collaboration," Ms. Thompson said about the five buildings which total 950,000 square feet.

Employee Allen Gravitt, who like Mr. Smith also works in information technology for BlueCross, called the campus "outstanding."

"It's all inclusive," he said, citing the cafeteria and wellness center.

What's Next

Work continues on some of the BlueCross buildings and landscaping. The company will fill the structures with employees from south to north as the buildings are completed.

Mr. Gravitt said he can walk down and talk to someone in person when previously employees were scattered across the city.

The first 140 employees are moving in one of the buildings on the 46-acre tract this week. Another 200 workers will shift to the campus each week until the move is complete, according to officials.

Ms. Thompson said the buildings will hold about 4,000 workers, and the site also has a 4,100-space parking garage.

The facility's cafeteria will seat 400 at one time, said Susan Lynn, its general manager for Sodexo Magic, the food service provider.

"It has got a lot of healthy options," she said about the fare. A full meal can be had for under $6, according to Sodexo's marketing director, Eric Boerner.