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BB&T leader predicts local growth
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BB&T leader predicts local growth
CEO shares Zebulon plans

BB&T Chief Executive Office Kelly S. King sees a promising future for the BB&T Corp. in Wilson and the possibility for growth.

The nation’s ninth largest banking institution has had its challenges, like other banks, during the Great Recession but never had any massive layoffs. Wilson’s employee base has also remained solid, amidst increasing regulatory controls and a slowly recovering economy.

The BB&T Corp., which started in Wilson in 1872, has grown to 35,000 employees with its largest employee base of 2,297 in Wilson. BB&T has also maintained its presence as the largest private employer in Wilson County.

"In the context that the world is changing, I think the employment base and opportunities for Wilson look very good,” King said. "I think the prospects for our associate base in Wilson looks very good and very promising. I don’t see any cutbacks. I think there will be growth.”

King was in Wilson Tuesday and spoke during the annual BB&T Center for Free Enterprise Education lecture at Barton College. Following a private, invitation-only luncheon at the Lauren Kennedy and Alan Campbell Theatre, King sat down for an interview with The Wilson Times.

BB&T’s presence has increased nationally where its located in 12 states and Washington, D.C. Its beginnings were much smaller in Wilson when the company started. BB&T was based in Wilson for 123 years until a decision was made to move it headquarters to Winston-Salem. At the time, King said there was concern that BB&T would exit the Wilson market. Instead, the employee base has only increased. And today, BB&T has more employees in Wilson than anywhere else, said David White, BB&T vice president for corporate communications.

"We had about 1,100 people here when we moved to Winston-Salem in 1995,” King said. "Everybody thought the world was coming to an end and we would all leave Wilson. Now we have 2,300 associates.”

The employee base in Wilson has continued to increase because of BB&T’s technology and information center.

"Because this is our technology and information center, as the company grows and every time we grow in Florida or Texas, that causes growth in technology and information, which tends to cause growth in Wilson,” King said.

BB&T is in the process of planning for a new data center in Zebulon, which King said will have no impact on Wilson. The data center, expected to open in 2016, will mainly house computers and only require 15 to 20 employees. The data center is planned as a backup within 30 miles of Wilson in case a natural disaster disrupts BB&T’s operations center in Wilson.

"It’s a data center so it will be a fairly large building with a lot of computers in it but with very, very few people,” King said. "It’s what we call a lights-out data center. It’s not going to have any direct impact on Wilson.”

King said that Wilson is still considered the home of BB&T even though the company’s headquarters is based in Winston-Salem.

"Wilson is still our home,” King said. "We were born here in 1872. That will never change.

We will, intellectually nor emotionally, never forget that. We are very committed to our heritage and we very much appreciate the fact that this was our home for well over 100 years. It, therefore, commands the respect and commitment that your homeplace deserves.”

King also shared his vision for the Lighthouse Project, a project he thought was important for the communities where BB&T is located. King said he came up with the idea during the economic downturn that left many people struggling financially. The project, which started in 2009, provides each employee with a $100 company donation and allows workers the opportunity to select a community project that requires volunteer time and the corporate donation.

The program, which started as a way to help people in need, had another impact King didn’t expect.

"My first thought, in all honesty, was to do good in the community,” King said. "I didn’t anticipate the second huge benefit, which was the benefit for our associates. I’ve had hundreds, maybe a thousand or more, associates tell me with tears in their eyes, ‘This has been a life-changing experience for me.’

"In the five years that we’ve done it, we’ve done over 5,500 projects and we’ve touched over 8 million people in our marketplace that are otherwise socially or economically deprived.”

In Wilson last year, BB&T employees donated more than 5,575 hours and touched the lives of 58,500 people through 83 lighthouse projects.

"We called it the Lighthouse Project because it was just an icon showing the way for people and giving them hope and promise for a better future,” King said. | 265-7818

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Thanks said...

Thank God for BB&T, they should be thanked and celebrated for what they do for Wilson and surrounding towns.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 8:59 PM
@sad to say said...

There have been many new businesses and not just restaurants but places like Becton Dickinson, and a host of well respected business in the last 10 years which are still here and growing. Where have you been? Not only new but even BB&T expanded, grew, continues to buy property right here in Wilson, NC. And there is a LOT to offer in this small town and cost of living is one of those. Go live in New Jersey, New York, or even north Raleigh for a while then come back here and let us know what you think. Companies are well aware of the size of Wilson; it is no mystery. And things to do are up to you! There is a lot here in Wilson that people just don't participate in and you can always ride an hour and you can find about anything you want. And we have recreational places...Gilette Park where people come from out of state all the time for games. One of the nicest places I've seen in a long time. Heck, go to Flemming Stadium tonight and watch Wake Forest play ECU. Are you going? Probably not which means you don't even realize what goes on in your very own city nor support it. Get on the Chamber of Commerce and it will give you insight to just what goes on here for such a small city. It is our city....we need to start acting like it and build it and not always point fingers and not have a stick in the fire.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:31 PM
Layoffs? said...

They don't do it 'system wide' as to not attract undue negative attention.
They have laid off plenty of people.
And driven off more than their fair share because of the good ole boy mentality.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 3:24 PM
truth be told said...

I AGREE WITH Local Local Local.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:48 PM
Sad to say said...

If BB&T or Firestone ever left Wilson it would be a wrap.
Hopefully one day the city council and mayor will learn that businesses do not want to come to an area with some of highest electricity rates and highest taxes in state I might add a city with nothing really to offer. There is almost no recreational places or entertainment of any value here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 2:40 PM
Local Local Local said...

How about using local vendors at your local branches? BB&T uses ZERO, let me repeat ZERO local vendors at any of their local branches.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:07 PM
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