By J. Scott Trubey
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 19, 2011
Primerica, which sells insurance and investment products to middle-income Americans, said Monday it will consolidate its operations into a new headquarters complex in Gwinnett County.
Duluth-based Primerica said its new, nearly 350,000-square-foot headquarters near Ga. 120 and Meadow Church Road will be completed in April 2013.
The deal is a big win for Gwinnett County in retaining its fourth-largest private employer, and also a boost for the region’s beleaguered construction industry. The space to be vacated by Primerica, however, will add to the metro area’s historic inventory of unfilled office space.
Primerica, which has 1,800 employees spread across 10 office buildings in Gwinnett, currently leases about 385,000 combined square feet.
The new headquarters, though slightly smaller in overall size, will help Primerica streamline operations while providing room to expand, the company said.
“This announcement marks a new day for Primerica,” John Addison, chairman of Primerica Distribution and co-chief executive, said in a news release. Addison called the new headquarters, near Gwinnett's business, sports and entertainment hub, "a centerpiece" for Primerica and its 90,000 representatives in North America.
Primerica is getting economic incentives from Gwinnett and the state.
Gwinnett is giving the company property tax abatements totaling $2.3 million over six years starting in 2014, said Joe Sorenson, a county spokesman.
Primerica said it will add 35 jobs over five years. The company qualifies for a state jobs tax credit of $1,250 per new job, said Alison Tyrer, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. That could add up to $43,750 per year for five years.
The new buildings, to be leased by Primerica, are the first project in Duke Realty's Legacy mixed-use office complex, a development slowed by the economy.
Duke Realty will serve as general contractor, with Wakefield Beasley as project designer.
Legacy was designed with corporate headquarters in mind, said Chris Brown, Duke Realty senior vice president of Georgia operations.
Developers with other large Gwinnett tracts also courted Primerica, he said.
No existing Gwinnett buildings fit Primerica's needs, Brown said.
Primerica's new home will be one of only a few major office projects under way in metro Atlanta, an office market that went on a building binge before the economic collapse and has since seen historic vacancy rates.
Office vacancy ticked up slightly to 17.2 percent in second quarter, according to CoStar Group.
“There are still a lot of headwinds in terms of new office construction and development in this market,” said Conor McNally, chief development officer for Carter, an Atlanta-based real estate firm.
What little office development there is, McNally said, is ruled by projects built to serve specific tenants that lenders see as safe credit risks.
Speculative projects, the drivers of Atlanta’s office development boom last decade, are virtually nonexistent.
It's a good time to build for those that can, McNally said, because construction costs are low and financing, though difficult to obtain, is affordable. But developers are battling not only the shaky economy, but the glut of available office space and landlords who are offering attractive prices for tenants to move.
Primerica, founded in 1977, has occupied its current headquarters buildings at 3100 and 3120 Breckinridge Boulevard since 1985.
The former subsidiary of Citigroup spun out of the Wall Street conglomerate in April 2010. Primerica's net income doubled and its operating revenue rose 17 percent in second quarter.
Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement his office is "elated" Primerica, which he described as "economically vital" to the state, chose to remain here.Staff Writer Rachel Tobin contributed to this report.