In less than a week, Wilson Bank & Trust will break ground on a three-story, 67,000-square-foot operations building behind the bank's main office on West Main Street in Lebanon.
Besides improving the bank's efficiency, technology and growth potential, WB&T executives referred to the new facility as an investment in the local economy that reaffirms the bank's commitment to independent, community-based banking.
"Our behind-the-scenes employees in operations are currently spread across three locations in Lebanon, and a permanent facility where we can bring those departments together with state-of-the-art resources is important to our long-term plans," WB&T CEO Randall Clemons said. "As we approach our 30th anniversary, this helps us solidify our foundation as an independent provider of financial services."
Bank officials said keeping ahead of the bank's technology and growth curves was a big factor in the decision to build the new operations center.
"The Operations Center at Castle Heights is designed to support additional growth for several years, and it gives us the flexibility to adjust as technology keeps advancing and the industry changes," Wilson Bank & Trust President Elmer Richerson said. "We also want to keep providing jobs for our neighbors in Middle Tennessee, and with more than 100 new employees joining our bank in the past year, it was crucial that we build up our infrastructure to keep up with the growth."
The new building will not be a customer contact location, bank officials noted, but it will play a key role in the level of service bank customers receive, they explained. In addition to becoming WB&T's primary site for branch support with more streamlined connectivity for back-office processes, the facility will house a new customer solutions center to provide comprehensive phone support for all the bank's accounts and services. And by virtue of shifting operations employees into the new building, bank officials noted the project also paves the way for future renovations to add more retail spaces to the adjacent main office.
The site of the operations center is the bank-owned football field that was once part of Castle Heights Military Academy. WB&T's first home in 1987, a small branch near the current site of the main office, had originally been a caretaker's home on school property, so the bank has always been closely connected with the history of the grounds.
"Many people have treasured memories from Castle Heights Military Academy, and we want to preserve the history of the area as much as possible," Clemons explained. "The design of the operations building was inspired by the architecture of the old McFadden Auditorium across the street, and remnants like the scoreboard and a historic marker will stay on the property."
The bank purchased the football field in 1990.
"While the land had been set aside by the bank long ago for future expansion, we're pleased to have been able to keep the field open for community use throughout the past 26 years," WB&T Executive Vice President John McDearman said. "As we've grown, we've expanded in other directions that will allow us to maintain that spirit of partnership."
Bank officials noted that "spirit of partnership" included the potential use of the bank-owned lawn in front of the Mitchell House for outside community events. That property is situated directly across Castle Heights Avenue from the main office.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the operations center will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 24, and the event is open to the public.
"We're excited about the opportunity to bring employees together in a structure that will help us better serve our customers and continue to serve the community," Clemons said.