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Rendering by Franklin Architects / The Conversant Group plans to build a new headquarters building on Chattanooga's Southside at 1600 Broad St.

Correction: This story was updated at 3:20 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, to state the new Conversant Group headquarters will be located on Broad Street in the Southside at Grants Auto Trim and not on Market Street.

A Chattanooga information technology infrastructure and cyber-security consulting company is expanding with plans for a four-story building on Broad Street and a doubling of its workforce.

John Anthony Smith, the Conversant Group's chief listening officer and president, said Monday that the business with 46 employees on Cowart Street plans to have about 100 workers by 2023.

To house its new employees, Smith said the company has bought property at 1600 Broad St., where Grants Auto Trim is currently leasing space.

The new Conversant headquarters will be about an $8 million to $9 million project, said Chris Roach, who is the president's executive assistant. He said completion of the new home office will be done within two to three years.

On Monday, the city's Industrial Development Board approved a $10,000 small business incentive grant to the company to add jobs.

"These are jobs you want in Chattanooga," said Smith, adding that about two-thirds of the company's jobs pay more than $80,000 annually.

While located in Chattanooga, Smith said the company mostly works in big cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cincinnati and others.

"We keep the bad guys out," he said. "If they do get in, we kick them out."

Smith, who founded Conversant in 2009, said the need is growing for his company.

"You've heard of cities and companies getting hacked," he said. "It can be devastating. The Chinese, the Russians — they don't stop. We're constantly fighting to keep them out."

The company president said there is a severe shortage of talented workers in the industry sector.

"We sell experience and knowledge," Smith said. "We hop when a company calls. We get in the trenches with our clients."

Smith called on the city to market itself better as a place to live and work, bolster education, and to do something about the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant in the Southside and its odor.

"The chicken plant is bad for our city," he said. "Our city stinks."

Smith said that Conversant also acquired the Grants parking lot at 1516 Broad St. That site will need remediation, he said.

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

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