SIOUX CITY | As he walked through the hallways of Tec-Corp's new home, CEO Skip Perley paused and pointed toward the ceiling.
Modern ductwork, electrical conduit and data cabling contrasted with the original concrete and brick in the three-story building at 2300 Seventh St.
Built in 1937 by Standard Oil Co., the long-vacant warehouse recently was transformed into offices for Tec-Corp., and its two divisions, Thompson Electric Co. and Electric Innovations.
The $4 million renovation consolidated the three companies' Sioux City operations under one roof for the first time, and tripled their combined space. The expansion also is expected to create more than a dozen new jobs.
As part of the renovation, the ceilings in the Seventh Street building were intentionally left exposed for architectural appeal, and to show off work performed by the companies' skilled technicians.
"The building is a tremendous opportunity for our customers to learn more about us," Perley said.
Thompson Electric, one of the region's largest and oldest electrical contractors, boasts a resume that includes a wide array of commercial and industrial projects, from office buildings, retail shops and hospitals to power plants, grain elevators and airport terminals.
Electric Innovations, which started in 2000, offers technical services such as IT support, computer network hosting and the installation, testing and maintenance of fire alarms, security and surveillance systems.
The three companies previously occupied five separate buildings, with a combined 22,000 square feet, at 14th and Jackson Streets. Thompson Electric had operated at that site since Alford E. Thompson started the company in 1933.
The former Standard Oil property, with more than 66,000 square feet of enclosed space, fulfilled the growing companies' need for more room. The centralized location at the intersection of Business Highway 75, also was appealing, Perley said. The highway offers easy access for crews headed to and from job sites, and for trucks delivering equipment and supplies. The site also is within a few blocks of offices for most of the contractors that Thompson Electric regularly does business with, Perley said.
Company leaders also were drawn by the opportunity to preserve the 76-year-old concrete structure with a brick exterior and curved corners.
"We really liked the industrial look of the building," lead architect Dale McKinney of M+ Architects said. "Keeping it as clean and original as possible was the goal walking into it."
Extending the post-modern industrial design to a two-story addition on the east side of the original structure required some creativity, McKinney said. A plumbing supply business built the addition in the 1980s for a showroom.
For the Tec-Corp project, the white grey exterior of the addition was covered with panels of corten steel. The metal will naturally rust over time, changing from a yellowish orange to a darker rust color.
"It rusts to a point and stops," McKinney said. "It doesn't require painting over and over again, over the life of the structure."
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To keep water runoff from coming down the panels and staining the sidewalk and landscaping below, welded wire filled with river rocks, or "rocks in a cage," as Perley likes to call them, were wrapped around the lower bottom of the exterior wall.
The rock fencing also keeps people from rubbing up against the rusting steel and accidentally staining their clothing, McKinney said.
The corten steel look was carried into the addition's first floor, which was transformed into a spacious lobby for Thompson Electric. The entrance and parking is off Sixth Street, adjacent to a McDonald's restaurant.
Just off the lobby is a large training center. Employees are encouraged to reserve the space for their own after-hour events, which have included family gatherings, receptions, and even a worship service.
Other employee amenities in the building include a fitness area with changing rooms and showers, and a break room with old-style booths.
Thompson Electric occupies the first floor. It includes a 12,000-square-foot prefabrication shop, where employees assemble components in a climate-controlled environment before heading to the job site.
Prefabrication manager Corey Floyd said the large space saves time by allowing workers to work on as many as four different jobs at one time without having to contend with rain, snow or mud.
"I can work on one, put it off to the side, and work on another job," he said.
Electric Innovations occupies the second floor, while Tec-Corp is on the third floor. The entrance to both companies is on the north side of the building, off Seventh Street.
The offices for all the companies are in the 1937 building, which offered the most architecturally interesting spaces. Th interior feature original curved block glass, exposed brick and concrete columns. The concrete floors were polished in the public spaces, while new carpet was laid in the offices and conference rooms.
The wide hallways encourage collaboration between employees.
"There's room to stand in the hallways and talk just like we are now," Perley said as he led a Journal reporter and photographer on a tour of the building
A generous use of glass helps illuminate the offices and common spaces with natural light.
"The building we moved out of had no windows so we're really learning how to use a lot of light," Perley said as he stood in his third-floor corner office. "It's really nice, especially on a sunny day like today."
More than 150 employees work out of the offices. To retain a major, growing employer, the city approved a developed agreement with TEC-Corp after the Iowa Economic Development authority approved the company’s application for Targeted Jobs Withholding Tax Credit Program. The pilot program lets employers keep a portion of the money that would have gone for payroll taxes for 10 years to invest in expansion.
“We’re just really happy to be staying in Sioux City,” Perley said. “We’re excited about taking an old building that’s been underutilized for many years and creating something that benefits the community.”