A group of 70 Blue Shield customer service representatives have moved in to the company's new 148,900-square-foot building in the Reynolds Ranch development located in south Lodi.
Blue Shield executives, Lodi City Council members and developers turned out Monday morning for a brief tour of the new building that is still being constructed.
Vice presidents of Blue Shied, Kathi Lucke and Bob Novelli expressed their pleasure with the building and the cooperation they've had with the city of Lodi.
"How many times are you going to have a $50 million project come in on time and on budget," said Novelli, who is the executive vice president of Blue Shield's customer services and corporate marketing. Novelli said that when they started the project, the company was made a promise by City Manager Blair King that if Blue Shield picked Lodi as the location for its new campus, Lodi would work to help get the task completed.
"They've kept that promise," Novelli said.
The city of Lodi had competed in an intense lobbying duel with the city of Stockton to convince Blue Shield to build its new building in Lodi rather than at a site near the Stockton airport.
Construction is slated to be complete and all employees moved in by Thanksgiving. The maximum number of employees that the new building can occupy is 1,050, and Novelli said they've designed the campus with expansion in mind.
The Blue Shield building, located at 3021 Reynolds Ranch Parkway, was designed with minimal environmental impact and energy efficiency in mind.
Inside, a seascape of empty cubicles await their coming inhabitants, while new chairs are still wrapped in plastic. The smell of fresh carpet permeates every nook of the modern design. Large windows surround the the offices, allowing for maximum use of natural light, cutting down on computer monitor glare for better eye health. And extra-tall doorways and ceilings make the two-story edifice look much taller than that.
The roof uses a "cool" design that reflects heat, and a water-cooled ventilation system that will keep air conditioning costs under control on those scorching Valley days.
Most of the design revolves around employees, their needs and health. A full-service cafeteria is part of the campus, as well as an employee gym and, according to Novelli, the entire business and grounds are non-smoking. He also mentioned a walking trail that encompasses the grounds.
Many of the materials used in the construction of Blue Shield's new home are comprised of recycled or renewable resources. Floors in the lobby are made from bamboo, while carpeting is made of 41 to 60 percent recycled materials.
The surrounding grounds will be planted with shade trees to cut down on reflected asphalt heat, bio swales - marshy trenches - will naturally remove contaminants from storm drainage and there will be Temperanillo and Petite Syrah grape vines introduced to retain the feel of Lodi's vineyards.
Blue Shield's building is so environmentally friendly that it is being held up by the United States Green Building Council as an example of smart construction.
Blue Shield at a glanceWhere: 3021 Reynolds Ranch Parkway, off Harney Lane and Highway 99.
Square feet: 148,900.
Cost: $50 million.
Maximum employees: 1,050.
Features: Full-service cafeteria, fitness center, activity room, bike racks, walking trail.
Source: Blue Shield of California
"The USGBC is using this project as an example of what the (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program should be," said King, who was in attendance of the debut. Lucke pointed out that the building has earned enough points to be LEED certified.
One of the most notable additions, lauded by all those in attendance, is the amount of jobs created - and existing jobs saved.
While Johnson said those against the project were "wrong, very wrong," others such as Vice Mayor Larry Hansen, Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) and Supervisor Ken Vogel all pointed out the benefit of the Lodi jobs. Hansen also stated that it created a wealth of construction jobs in an industry that has been severely slowed in recent months.
Dale Gillespie, president of Reynolds Ranch Partners, Inc., echoed the others' sentiments.
"A council member questioned whether we needed the jobs or not," Gillespie said. "Blue Shield is important to Reynolds Ranch, but it's absolutely vital to this community."