Most people know the trial of moving a single family into a new home.
Now imagine coordinating the move of nearly 550 utility company employees into a massive new office complex, all with construction still going on, and with the need to maintain those utility services without interruption.
That was the challenge facing Rapid City-based Black Hills Energy as it consolidates employees from five separate locations in Rapid City to its new headquarters, Horizon Point, located at 7001 Mount Rushmore Road, near the intersection of Catron Boulevard.
“It was crazy in here a week ago, but it’s much better now,” said BHE chairman and CEO David Emery, during a recent sneak peek tour, as employees settled into their new workspaces amid construction workers still putting finishing touches, inside and out to the $70 million facility.
“Before we moved in ... we didn’t even have water yet,” Emery said. “They were still chlorinating the system and flushing water lines.”
Construction of Horizon Point began in September 2015 after Black Hills Energy decided to maintain its headquarters here, adding since 2005 more than 300 corporate support jobs, serving 1.25 million electrical and natural gas customers in eight states.
The building is designed with plenty of open space to encourage collaboration and increase efficiency among employees in each department.
Stretches of windows allow panoramic views of the Black Hills to the west, while maintaining energy efficiency, Emery said.
Black Hills Energy’s former general office building on Ninth Street near downtown Rapid City is being sold and will be shared by the Rapid City YMCA and the Rapid City Area Schools for administration space.
Leases for office space in Baken Park and on the lower levels of the Vast Broadband building on Deadwood Avenue will be terminated. Another BHE-owned building on Plant Street will be sold.
About 40 to 50 employees, including line crews and their management serving only South Dakota utility customers, will remain at BHE’s Rapid City Service Center on Deadwood Avenue, Emery said.
Emery said the move to Horizon Point began on Nov. 9 and was mostly completed in the evening and overnight hours, allowing employees to leave their former location one day and report the following morning in the new building.
“It really was very seamless,” said Amy Derdall, a director in the finance and accounting department. “We left a little early one day and the next day we showed up here and everything was on our desks. We were able to turn on and be ready to work in about 30 minutes.”
As of last week about 450 employees had made their move to Horizon Point. Emery expects about 600 employees to be working there by the end of the first quarter of 2018, as more jobs are gradually moved from other BHE offices in Colorado, Nebraska and Arkansas.
“We have a lot of room to grow just in the footprint we have now,” Emery said.
The new 225,000-square-feet building is designed to accommodate about 750 employees, but is designed with the option of adding a third wing in the future.
But for now, employees say they are enjoying their new work home, in spite of the din of construction still going on around them.
“It’s got that new car smell, that new building smell,” Derdall said. “It’s a happy place to come to work.”