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Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd/ The fourth floor and part of the third of Unum's West office building, right, is being leased by Reliance Partners. Unum has reworked its office space over the past few years and freed up some of it for lease.

Fast-growing commercial insurer Reliance Partners has shifted to a new headquarters and is the first tenant in office space leased by Unum Group in its iconic downtown Chattanooga complex.

"We were looking for a growth opportunity and space to expand," said Laura Ann Howell, Reliance Partners' chief operating officer, about the move.

Reliance Partners, the Chattanooga-based company that's one of the nation's biggest insurance agencies serving the trucking and logistics industries, is leasing 28,000 square feet in the West office building, according to Unum.

Richard Meadows, vice president of real estate for the Chattanooga-based disability insurer Unum, said the company has invested in making smarter use of its workspace over the last few years.

"Doing so has the added benefit of freeing up space that can be leased, which brings energy to our campuses that mirrors the vibrancy of Chattanooga," he said. "Reliance Partners is a great addition to our downtown campus."

Howell said Reliance Partners is leasing the fourth, or top floor, and part of the third level for its new headquarters that it's calling the 555 Walnut Building.

She said about 150 employees are moving into the new space. Currently, Reliance employees are working on the second floor until renovations are complete, she said.

Howell said the new offices will have space for even more employees as the company aims for 300 workers within 24 to 36 months.

"It's fantastic class A space," she said, adding that it's more than twice the 12,000 square feet Reliance Partners leased in Liberty Tower a few blocks away.

Howell said Reliance has seen a record year, with gross written premium expected to hit about $315 million by the end of 2021. She said that figure would be up about 45% over 2020.

"We're thankful for the positive winds in our direction," Howell said, citing the company's employees. "We're staying laser focused on growth and expansion."

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / COO Laura Ann "L.A." Howell, left, CEO Andrew Ladebauche and President Chad Eichelberger pose in the Reliance Partners office inside Liberty Tower on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Kelly Spencer, Unum's director of corporate communications, said that company is continuing to lease more space in the West building, though some of it will continue to be used by its employees.

She said the fitness center and food service cafeteria are located in the building located just across Walnut Street from another Unum office structure dubbed the East tower. Spencer said the food service cafeteria is a shared amenity that will be used by tenants and Unum employees.

Over the past few years, Unum instituted new flexible workspace efforts, permitting its employees to shift from the West to the East tower, according to the company.

Unum spent upwards of $40 million in the city and $100 million in its offices companywide to create a more open environment. More color, light, and collaborative space were hallmarks of the revamped offices, which officials said will appeal to multiple generations and help the insurance giant operate more efficiently.

The move opened up the West tower for lease to office and retail users, according to the disability and volunteer benefits insurer that has about 2,800 employees in Chattanooga.

Howell said Reliance's new space will be "open concept, very collaborative." She added that, as the coronavirus pandemic wanes, Reliance has created a safe work environment for employees.

The company official said about a third of Reliance employees continue to work from home.

In addition to it Chattanooga headquarters, Reliance has six satellite offices, she said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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