From left, Lori Baddrs, board member of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce; Lynn Wargo, president of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce; Dave Carson, city commissioner; Mayor Dave Eggers; T.D. Hawkins, chairman of the board for Achieva Credit Union; Gary Regoli, president and CEO of Achieva Credit Union; Ron Barnette, city commissioner; Julie Ward-Bujalski, city commissioner; Rob DiSpirito, city manager; and friends break ground on the new Achieva Credit Union building.
DUNEDIN – A crowd of city leaders and players as well as people of all ranks with Achieva Credit Union expressed excitement and feelings of partnership on Sept. 28 as they broke ground for the new Achieva corporate headquarters at 1659 Virginia St. in Dunedin.
The new headquarters will initially bring about 140 jobs to Dunedin, as well as more jobs in the future, said Gary Regoli, Achieva’s president and CEO. Already, he said, there have been discussions of needing a few more departments and positions.
“Achieva is proud to say to the city of Dunedin, Pinellas County and the surrounding area, ‘We’re hiring,’” Regoli said. “And we’re bringing in a lot of folks and giving them real jobs with real paychecks, stimulating the economy.”
The property once was home to Nielsen Media Research, and over the next nine or 10 months, it will be renovated to fit Achieva’s needs, and they will move all of their management and leadership into the single location. Presently, those employees are spread out throughout Clearwater, Largo and Palm Harbor, Regoli said. Construction includes replacing the east wing with a two-story wing that may be slightly longer than it currently is, Regoli said. The north side will be remodeled, and then the west wing will have its roof structure removed and a second story added to it. Then, the façade will be redone, he added. That wing will basically double its size.
Construction will be done in three phases, with phases I and II being completed by late spring, and phase III being done in summer 2013. Employees will move in as the phases are finished. Ultimately, the building will be expanded to about 67,000 feet from 41,000, he said.
Achieva names each of its buildings, and due to this facility’s layout, employee-friendly amenities and the centralized location and activities, its new nickname will be Center Court, Regoli said.
The leadership of the city is thrilled to have Achieva set up its world headquarters in Dunedin.
“In terms of our interaction with Gary and his team, the whole organization so far, it’s been a real class act,” said City Manager Rob DiSpirito. “And some things that really came through to my staff and me as we got to know Gary and the group, is really family, community, and service. These are three values that are very clear to us that they hold and they live, and we as a city value greatly. [They] are a modern financial institution, yet [their] approach to this community has been like a small-town community, central feel, central to the community, and the employees are like family.”
Mayor Dave Eggers agreed that the pairing of Achieva and Dunedin seems like a perfect fit.
“They’re just top-of-the-line, good people, down-to-earth team players,” Eggers said. “And I could add a few more adjectives like ‘giving.’ ‘Partner.’ There are so many things that we talked about [with Achieva leaders] and the similarities to Dunedin just hit me over and over. There are a lot of buildings out there you can find, but this champion-type company could hitch their wagon to a champion-type city, and there are just so many things that we can accomplish. And it’s really exciting. And it’s great to hear about all those jobs and getting people back to work. That’s what we’re all about.”
Everyone who spoke referred to the great public-private partnership that the city and the company have formed already. Lynn Wargo, president of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce, noted that when Achieva opened a branch in Dunedin a few years ago, it made sure to be an active part of the community from the very beginning.
“Before you even broke ground, you had already established a presence in the community,” Wargo said. “You were a member of our Chamber before the first shovel hit the ground.”
Wargo also added her appreciation for the community events the company sponsors and partakes in that make the city a nicer place to live.
Regoli said that the company had looked at a number of possible locations for its headquarters but wanted to be relatively mid-county and in a nonevacuation zone so the building would be safe from storm surge. The beauty of the Virginia Street campus was attractive, with employee-friendly aspects such as a wonderful courtyard and ample parking, he said. It is a good fit for the company, he said, but it also will benefit the city.
“It’s going to be a bit of an economic boost for the city to have a corporation headquarters,” Regoli said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if over time, there are folks (at Achieva) that learn about the community and come here after hours and take advantage of the restaurants and other things that are available, and I’m sure that over time, folks will actually move here. And I’m sure it’s an improvement of [the city’s] tax base.”
DiSpirito echoed Regoli’s sentiments and excitement of what this can mean for the city.
“In addition to the fact that it’s bringing a lot of skilled workers to our community and consumers, it brings an addition of service and it’s an additional amenity to the residents,” DiSpirito said. “And also, I think it’s a signal to other companies who might want to consider coming here. When you have a world headquarters – and we have Ocean Optics, too, which is another world headquarters – it shows we’re the type of community that can be attractive to corporations.”
DiSpirito and Eggers said they are being optimistic and see signs that the economy is slowly picking up. Eggers notes that in addition to this new company, there is now a new auto parts store in Dunedin as well as the Wal-Mart grocery that has moved in. Also, the Publix on Curlew Road has totally renovated, almost doubling its size, he said. There is also some potential new activity with the Gateway project and on Patricia Avenue, all of which are good signs for the city.