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Founders planning $20M to $25M headquarters campus near USCL

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By Johnathan Ryan

Founders Federal Credit Union is planning a campus-style corporate headquarters at Gillsbrook Drive and Plantation Road, the focal point of which will be a 130,000-square-foot corporate center.

The project, slated to cost between $20 million and $25 million, will initially include the construction of the center and an office-support facility, said Founders chief executive officer Bruce Brumfield. Founders bought nearly 27 acres of land for the project about a month ago.

The project's completion will bring the end of corporate activities at the North Main Street office and consolidate current separate units under one roof, including credit and debit card services, customer service, financial counseling and collections services.

The North Main Street building will remain in operation as a service branch; the new center will not include a service branch.

Brumfield said the growing company needs more room and separate departments will be able to work more efficiently under one roof. The idea has been under serious consideration for six months, he said.

"This is an absolutely perfect project to be in Lancaster," he said. "Maybe it will make some other companies say it's not so bad to be in downtown Lancaster or Lancaster proper. It could serve as a catalyst."

Founders is now seeking a rezoning of the planned site from R-15 to B-2. Lancaster City Council approved first reading of the zoning change on Tuesday. One more reading is necessary for the rezoning to be finalized.

"The first step is the rezoning and then we'll get the city and county together," Brumfield said. "We will need some help in doing this, like incentives."

Brumfield said he hopes the county will offer an incentive package for the longtime Lancaster-based credit union, much as it would for a business locating to the county for the first time. Because of the project's large price tag and its economic impact, Brumfield is confident the county will grant incentives.

"I think they'll be more than happy to help us," he said.

If all goes according to plan, construction should start on the project in late 2008 or early 2009 and be completed in two years, Brumfield said. About 225 employees are expected to work at the new headquarters.

The architectural firm, The Little Group of Charlotte, known for its design and construction work of new credit union buildings, has created a site plan for the project. Brumfield said the firm has also been interviewing various employees to determine their departmental needs and how they can be addressed as the design evolves.

One of the top goals is that the project will meet the company's space needs now and well into the future.

"They've been talking to people about their department's needs and anticipating needs three, five, 10 and 20 years from now," Brumfield said. "They want to build a building that will address our needs now and in the future."

Whatever the final design is, the hope is that it will fit in well with surrounding properties, particularly complementing the University of South Carolina at Lancaster, which is nearby.

In later stages of the project, a community center could be completed that would host community activities and meetings, such as Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce functions, Brumfield said.

Brumfield also said since Founders' history is so entwined with the history of Springs Industries, a museum devoted to the history of the credit union in relation to the textile giant will be built.

Contact reporter Johnathan Ryan at jryan@thelancasternews or (803) 416-8416