Chattanooga Cybersecurity Firm to Double Workforce

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A Chattanooga, Tennessee, information technology infrastructure and cybersecurity consulting firm has unveiled an $8m expansion plan that will see its workforce double by 2023.

Currently, the Conversant Group operates with 46 employees from its headquarters on Cowart Street. On Monday, the company's president and chief listening officer, John Anthony Smith, revealed plans to expand the firm to a new site on Chattanooga's Southside.

To facilitate the move, Conversant has purchased property at 1600 Broad Street on which it plans to erect a new four-story building. Upon completion, the building will become the company's new headquarters.

According to Smith's executive assistant, Chris Roach, the new headquarters will cost between $8m and $9m to erect and should be in use within the next two to three years. 

The city's Industrial Development Board awarded a $10,000 small business incentive grant to Conversant on Monday to assist the company with the creation of new jobs. 

Conversant said the expansion would create around 46 new jobs for the city. 

"These are jobs you want in Chattanooga," said Smith, adding that about two-thirds of the company's employees receive an annual salary greater than $80,000.

Conversant was founded by Smith in 2009. The majority of the company's work comes from large North American cities, including Cincinnati, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. 

Describing what the company achieves in laymen's terms, Smith said: "You've heard of cities and companies getting hacked. It can be devastating. The Chinese, the Russians—they don't stop. 

"We're constantly fighting to keep them out. If they do get in, we kick them out."

Expanding to a larger site on Chattanooga's Southside will cause Conversant employees to inhale more than just the sweet smell of success. The area is known for the odors that emanate from the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant.

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

Smith began his IT career in 1994 at the age of 14 at Thompson Machinery Commerce Corporation of Lavergne in Tennessee. Two years later, Smith founded his first company, Computech. 

Conversant is Smith's third company. The dynamic entrepreneur founded his second company, NetAlliant Technologies, in 2002 and sold it in 2008.

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