PEMBROKE — A mid-afternoon shower Thursday failed to put a damper on the groundbreaking ceremony for the Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation’s long-awaited new headquarters.
The utility company is moving from its longtime corporate home in Red Springs to COMtech business park near Pembroke. The facility is being built on part of more than 30 acres located along N.C. 711.
Roger Oxendine, chairman of Lumbee River EMC’s board of directors, said the new headquarters, which will be built at a cost of $23 million, will serve some practical purposes.
“It’s a dream that we will have an auditorium where all employees can be seated at one time,” said Oxendine, also a member of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners. “It’s a dream that when we have visitors we can all meet together in one room. It’s a dream that when it is raining like it is now we don’t have to go and put buckets out to catch water. It’s a dream that people driving down 711 can look over at our headquarters and say ‘that is my facility.”’
Lumbee River EMC’s headquarters has been at 605 E. Fourth St. in Red Springs since 1949. It currently employs about 117 people, said Walter White, the utility’s director of marketing.
The building cost will not be passed onto members of the not-for-profit, according to White.
“By refinancing some long-term debt we are able to absorb the cost of the project within our current rate structure,” he said.
The building will be 82,000 square feet in size, said Sam Isham, vice president of Metcon Construction, the Pembroke company overseeing construction.
“There will be an up-to-date training room, state-of-the-art board room, and a control room with state-of-the-art features so there can be a response to emergencies quickly and efficiently,” Isham said. “The building will be energy efficient, use a lot of natural daylight, and provide a modern work environment.”
The architect for the project will be SfL +a Architects, which last year made local headlines when it presented a plan to the Public Schools of Robeson County to build 14 energy efficient schools and close 30.
Construction of the facility is expected to take about a year.
The headquarters is a “vision” that has long been a company goal, Steven C. Hunt, Lumbee River EMC’s president and CEO, told the crowd of about 50 company employees, public officials and others involved in the project.
“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done, but here we are,” Hunt said.
The company has been planning to build a new headquarters for the past 10 years, Oxendine said. Everything just “never got in place.”
The new headquarters is being placed in the perfect location to serve the company’s customers.
“It’s in the center of our service area,” he said.
Oxendine credited Lumbee River EMC employees for making the project financially viable.
“They do more with less. That’s efficiency,” he said. “They haven’t raised rates and that’s good management.”
The new headquarters will mean more tax revenue for the county. County Manager Ricky Harris said last year that the facility could add $13 million to $15 million to the county’s tax base.
The new facility also will be a boost to COMtech, said Alan Fowlkes, COMtech’s executive director. He said it is likely to draw other businesses to the park.
Lumbee River EMC is a member-owned not-for-profit utility that serves more than 58,000 people in Robeson, Scotland, Hoke and Cumberland counties.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.