Many lives in western North Carolina changed on August 15, 2021, especially in the communities of Canton and Cruso. The falling rain caused anxiety and nerves, but on the evening of August 17, residents, businesses and the city of Guangzhou lost almost everything due to the force of the water.
“In the hours following the flood, Canton is committed to not only rebuilding businesses and buildings, but also reviving our damaged spirit,” said Zeb Smathers, Mayor of Canton. After several months of discussions and logistics regarding relief funds, the city of Guangzhou, which has been relocated since Tropical Storm Fred, has some hope for permanent housing for its employees.
After flooding from Tropical Storm Fred, City of Canton staff moved into commercial open spaces in Canton in search of a home. They found temporary space on the ground floor of Champion Credit Union‘s administrative office, moved into offices in Smathers Square and recently moved into a temporary modular setup.
As relief funds made their way to the city, the challenge of rebuilding in an established business community surfaced, making it difficult for the city of Canton to find a good solution for their future permanent residence. That is, until an established business chooses to continue investing in the community.
In 1932, in the midst of the Great Depression and economic failure, the employees of Champion Paper Fiber Company came together to form Champion Savings and Loan, known today as Champion Credit Union.
Ninety years later, Champion Credit Union is a leading financial institution in western North Carolina and is still rooted in Canton, with three offices located in the city of Canton, including a branch as well as their administrative and back-office operations teams. While Champion Credit Union enjoys operating in the heart of downtown Guangzhou, the need for a consolidated office space continues to arise.
“Maintaining a vibrant and collaborative culture remains one of our organization’s key strategic initiatives,” said Jake Robinson, President and CEO of Champion Credit Union. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to achieve this with back-office operations across multiple locations.” During a discussion between the city of Canton and Champion Credit Union, plans seemed to be unfolding naturally. The city needs centralized office space in the downtown area; Champion wants to reaffirm its roots in the community and reinvest with a space large enough to bring its teams together with a collaborative workspace.
In addition to the Champion Credit Union branch located at 3 Academy Street, which will remain in place to continue serving its members, Champion CU owns the buildings at 401 Main Street and 138 Academy Street. “This exciting agreement between the City and the CCU provides both organizations with an opportunity to deliver on its promise to enrich the lives of its communities,” said Robinson.
After assessing the needs of everyone involved, a plan was developed that involves the City of Canton purchasing the 401 Main Street office building from Champion Credit Union to house the Canton Police Department and office building 138 Academy Street to become Canton’s new city hall. .
Champion Credit Union plans to reinvest in the Canton community by purchasing the undeveloped real estate along the New Clyde Freeway in Canton to construct a building that will help achieve one of their key cultural strategic goals.
As is a longstanding tradition, the City of Canton and Champion Credit Union are committed to Canton not only as a place, but to its people. Once again, these entities, one private, the other public, send a clear signal that Canton will always be home,” says Smathers.
Although there are still some steps to finalize regarding investigations and inspections, the hope is the main driving force that the City of Guangzhou will find its permanent and ideal home.
“The City of Guangzhou is thrilled to move forward with the adaptive reuse of these central buildings in our downtown core. By moving the Township Police Department and City Hall outside of the floodplain, we are more resilient to future events and can better serve the community during good times and bad,” says Nick Scheuer, Township Manager of Canton. . “The City is grateful for the partnership with the CCU and this incredible reinvestment in our community. »