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Staff File Photo by Angela Lewis Foster HomeServe CEO Tom Rusin speaks in Chattanooga during an earlier visit to the company's East Brainerd operations. HomeServe is planning a new 46,000-square-foot building off Lee Highway.

HomeServe USA is putting down roots in Chattanooga as the company invests about $5.5 million to construct an East Brainerd office building where it will employ nearly 200 more people.

The company, which offers homeowners monthly plans to cover major household repairs, plans to add to its 320 workers already in the city, officials said Tuesday.

The company's new 46,000-square foot office building, which will hold a call center and customer operations facility, will go on Lee Highway across from St. Stephen Catholic Church just north of Shallowford Road, according to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Myles Meehan of HomeServe, which has been in Chattanooga since 2010 at The Pointe Corporate Centre off East Brainerd Road, said plans are for the new facility to be ready around March 2018.

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Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Mar 31, 2011-- Tavares Armour updates sales numbers on a board Thursday at HomeServe. The business provides emergency home repair programs.
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Employees work in the call center at HomeServe in Brainerd. The company, providers of insurance plans for exterior and interior home repair, is experiencing rapid growth and plans to hire 100 more workers.

Meehan said that while the company currently has some open posts, hiring for the new jobs will come later.

HomeServe is seeking a five-year property tax break for creating 192 jobs, according to a presentation Tuesday before the city council's economic and community development panel.

The company estimates 133 of the jobs will pay around $17 an hour, or about $35,000 a year. Those jobs require a high school diploma or its equivalent. Other office and management positions will earn more, driving up the average wage to $39,250 annually for the 192 positions.

In return, the agreement calls for the city to abate 100 percent of new property taxes generated by the company's new facilities for the first year of the agreement. The abatement scales down to 75 percent in the second year, 60 percent in the third year and 50 percent for the final two years.

City Councilwoman Carol Berz called the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes [PILOT] proposal a "no-brainer."

"I'm in full support of it because these are the kinds of jobs that we're looking for, that I hear my colleagues talking about us needing," Berz said. "It's part of the council's strategic plan to get more jobs at all levels."

But Helen Burns Sharp, founder of Accountability for Taxpayer Money, urged the council to delay giving tax breaks to HomeServe until the city develops a better policy for determining when property taxes should be exempted in Chattanooga.

"This proposal would set a precedent for incentivizing service sector jobs at call centers," she said. "How do we say no to other existing or proposed call centers which are going to be here anyway?"

Tom Rusin, CEO of Connecticut-based HomeServe, said Chattanooga already is home to the company's largest contact center employee group.

"Our dedicated employees at the center deliver award-winning customer support, which is key to our business operations," he said in a statement.

Since 2003, HomeServe has offered its products to homeowners across the country and today protects 3 million customers in the U.S. and Canada, the company said.

HomeServe's plans cover major household repairs from plumbing and electrical to heating, cooling and appliances, and it often partners with utility companies and municipalities.

"With this expansion, HomeServe will create close to 200 good, middle- class jobs right here in Chattanooga, bringing their local workforce to over 500 strong," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

Bill Kilbride, CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber, cited HomeServe's growth and investment.

"We're proud of the work we do at the Chamber every day to create jobs for our community," he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or Paul Leach at pleach@times freepress.com.

This story was updated May 9 at 10:15 p.m. with more information.

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