Aflac to add 375 jobs in South Carolina division

Aflac's group supplemental insurance operation in South Carolina's state capital is on a roll, with the company saying Thursday it plans to add 375 jobs there by the end of this year.

That would give the Columbia division that markets and sells insurance through larger companies more than 800 employees, far more than was expected when Aflac purchased Continental American Insurance Co. in October 2009 for $100 million.

"We started when we first opened up the place after we made the acquisition with roughly 175 jobs, and there's currently about 450 there now," said Aflac spokesman Jon Sullivan via phone after a visit to Columbia. "We've got 84 jobs there that are open and waiting to be filled and anticipate getting up to around 825 by year's end."

As recently as September 2010, Aflac projected its Columbia-area workforce would top 300 within five years, with a company official saying the operation there was "seeing momentum."

Sullivan pointed out that Aflac has 225 open positions in Columbus, with 25 of those connected to the group insurance division. He downplayed any notion that more of the group operation could be located locally rather than in South Carolina.

"That's where Aflac Group is," he said. "I wouldn't phrase it as growing there and not here. We want to grow in all functions of what we do, whether it be individual or group. It just so happens that group is part of the landscape that we haven't been in before, and we're pleased that group is doing quite well. So, it has encouraged the need to hire more people in Columbia. Our intention is to grow all facets of our company."

Aflac has two large campuses in Columbus. Its global headquarters is on Wynnton Road, while a satellite campus is situated about 5 miles to the east in Corporate Ridge Business Park off Macon Road.

Some sort of campus or additional office space is a likelihood as the Columbia operation gets bigger and consolidates from separate locations in that city, Sullivan said.

"Certainly, as we continue to add more people we're going to need more space," he said. "How that happens is yet to be determined."

Aflac employs 3,723 full- and part-time in Columbus, with roughly 5,000 on its payroll in Japan, where the insurer does about 75 percent of its business.

The company's shares (Ticker: AFL) rose $1.17, or 2.7 percent, to $44.21 in trading Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock's 52-week trading range is $31.25 to $57.39 per share.