Steam Logistics taking Unum space until new Chattanooga headquarters ready in 2022

Staff file photo / Unum's 555 Walnut building is seen in the foreground in front of the insurer's East tower in this file photo. Steam Logistics is the latest company to lease space at 555 Walnut.

Fast-growing Steam Logistics has taken a large chunk of space in one of Unum's buildings in downtown Chattanooga as the company awaits the opening of its new headquarters nearby in 2022.

Jason Provonsha, chief executive of the Chattanooga-based logistics business, said Steam is leasing 30,000 square feet in the 555 Walnut building on Unum's campus for one year.

"It has been a great short-term solution to our space needs and Unum has been really helpful and flexible to allow us to do something short term," he said.

Steam already has moved about 100 people into the space and eventually will have 250 workers when the build-out is complete, Provonsha said.

Construction on Steam's new headquarters in the John Ross Building at Fourth and Broad streets is expected to start in January, he said. Plans are to be in that overhauled building by November, Provonsha said.

"That project is going well," the company CEO said, noting a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes incentive with local government was approved.

Natalie Godwin, Unum's assistant vice president of external communications, said Steam has joined Reliance Partners, one of the nation's biggest insurance agencies serving the trucking and logistics industries, and investment advisory firm Patten and Patten in 555 Walnut.

She said that Steam is taking up a pair of suites on two floors in the building, which sits just across Walnut Street from Unum's East tower.

So far, Unum has leased about 88,000 square feet and has about 100,000 square feet still available at 555 Walnut, Godwin said.

Over the past few years, the disability insurer and volunteer benefits provider instituted new flexible workspace, permitting its employees to shift from the former West building to the East tower, according to the company.

Chattanooga-based Unum, which has about 2,800 employees in the city, spent upwards of $40 million in the city and $100 million in its offices companywide to create a more open environment.

In October, Steam revealed plans to create 400 jobs in a nearly $7 million expansion into the historic John Ross Building where the company will shift its headquarters.

The third-party logistics company founded in 2012 will expand to that building, which is next door to its existing offices, where it plans to more than double its workforce, said Provonsha.

"We're growing at a fast clip," he said in an earlier interview, adding that Steam has seen revenues climb by about 1,000% since 2019.

The company, which now employs 345 people in Chattanooga along with about 30 people in Birmingham and Minneapolis, expanded into the U.S. logistics market in April after a non-compete clause ended for the company. Previously, Steam had served just the international sector, Provonsha said.

Also, the coronavirus pandemic has helped drive business as companies are seeking solutions to their logistics needs, he said.

Chattanooga developer Noon Development will oversee the construction of the hulking, windowless four-story John Ross Building that was raised in 1929 as part of an auto dealership.

John Foy, Noon's chairman, said plans are to leave the structure's support columns but remove the concrete blocks in the exterior walls and replace those with large windows.

Todd Phillips, president of Noon, said "everything will be redone" inside the building where Steam will lease the entire 60,000-square-foot space. Plans are to backfill the space that's currently occupied by Steam once the company moves over.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.