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BB&T’s commitment to Wilson and belief in the downtown turnaround was on display Thursday as officials gathered to break ground on a new $35 million building.
“By now, I’m sure all of you are aware of the recent news regarding our proposed merger with SunTrust. A lot of people have wondered what that means for the future of BB&T in Wilson,” said BB&T Processing Services Manager Steve Anderson. “I can’t predict what the future holds for our company, but what I can tell you is this project is a symbol of our gratitude and it is a symbol of our commitment to a community that has been so important to our company’s success.”
BB&T announced plans in August to demolish the towers on Nash Street and build a new 95,000-square-foot office along Pine Street. The merger with SunTrust Banks will have to go through various regulatory approvals before becoming official, but BB&T officials have said despite plans to move the new bank’s headquarters to Charlotte, the company remains committed to Wilson.
Anderson said he and former regional president Scott Evans started discussing the future of the towers about a year ago.
“The truth is we knew this was a really important decision, not just for our company and our associates, but for a community that has been so important to us,” Anderson said. “We were faced with a number of options with what to do, but as we pondered, we couldn’t escape the thought that these towers and this facility had been the cornerstone and bedrock of downtown Wilson for so long.”
City Manager Grant Goings said he was thrilled to see the project come to fruition, adding it is an anchor of $61 million of investment in downtown in the next two years.
“I want to thank BB&T for believing in Wilson consistently since the day they opened that first building, and we see evidence of that here today,” Goings said. “Now I want to ask you to be a believer if you haven’t been. I’m not sure what more evidence you need. I think we’re showing plenty, but come on board and be a part of this spirit.
“We’ve got a very bright future and that future includes a vibrant and revitalized downtown.”
BB&T plans to have about 600 employees working in the downtown building once it is complete next year. The company, which plans to operate under a new name once the merger is complete, has roughly 2,200 employees in Wilson, many of whom work out of an office off Forest Hills Road.
“It is not in our DNA to sit still. It is in our DNA to grow and that is what we intend to do, and we hope to have other events like this as we go forward in the future,” said BB&T COO Chris Henson. “So while that is a lot of change and we do have a lot in front of us, there is one thing that is not going to change and that is our commitment to Wilson — the birthplace of BB&T.”
Once the new building is complete in mid-2020, the towers will be demolished and the property turned over to the city for development. The land swap was done to allow BB&T to build on the former site of the Paul V. Berry Hickory Grove Park and city staff have salvaged many things from the park, such as memorial pavers purchased by residents and trees that will be replanted in the dog park at Toisnot.
“You know what? Today is a great day for our city,” said Mayor Bruce Rose. “It is great for downtown and it is great for BB&T.”