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State Farm To Move Employees Out Of Downtown Bloomington

The iconic State Farm Insurance building in downtown Bloomington.

For the first time in nearly a century, State Farm employees will soon be without a home in downtown Bloomington.

The insurer announced Thursday that the final 150 workers in its downtown building will be moving to other locations in Bloomington by Feb. 1. It’s part of a larger shift toward more collaborative physical workspaces for employees, making more segmented office space like the downtown building less useful for the company, said State Farm spokesperson Missy Dundov.

Recently State Farm has been creating more collaborative workspaces—with open floor plans, small-group areas, and conference rooms—at its larger Corporate South and Headquarters buildings on Bloomington’s east side, Dundov said.

“The downtown building just wasn’t conducive to that collaborative working style we’ve turned to,” she said.

There are no plans to sell the historic building, which once held 400 to 500 employees, she said. Once ongoing renovations are completed State Farm will “figure out how we want to use” it, she said.

The announcement comes amid a larger restructuring of State Farm’s IT operations, including voluntary buyouts for some Bloomington workers. The company says those changes will help it “provide more sophisticated online and mobile solutions to customers in our fast-paced, hyper-connected world.” Most IT operations will be located in Bloomington, with additional employees continuing in State Farm’s hub cities of Atlanta, Dallas, and Phoenix.

Even with the downtown change, Dundov stressed State Farm’s “footprint will remain the same.”

“We are at 15,000 employees in Bloomington, and we intend to stay there,” she said. “Jobs are shifting in the restructuring, but we will continue to have that 15,000 footprint here.”

The company has not disclosed how many employees have accepted the voluntary buyouts.

Meanwhile, State Farm also announced Thursday it plans to close its offices in Tacoma, Washington, by the end of 2018. Around 600 of its 1,400 jobs in Tacoma will be moved to another location in Washington state. The majority of the remaining work will move to State Farm offices in Bloomington and Phoenix. Bloomington's workforce is expected to grow by around 250 positions as a result, the company said.

"Our decision to exit these facilities was based on several factors such as gaining efficiency through streamlining and improving processes, adapting to the rapidly changing needs and expectations of our customers, leveraging technology, and optimizing available space in our current facilities," State Farm said about the Tacoma announcement.

History In Bloomington

State Farm’s downtown building is an iconic part of the Bloomington-Normal skyline. It was built in pieces. The first floors were completed in 1929, a new home for retired farmer and insurance salesman George Jacob "G.J." Mecherle’s growing 7-year-old company. The final stories weren’t added until 1945.

The building, along East Street between Washington and Jefferson streets in the heart of downtown, served as State Farm’s headquarters until 1974.

Kyle Ham, the CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council, said he sees the move as a potential opportunity. He said it does not complicate efforts to revitalize downtown.

“It’s a little early to pin it down,” he said. “But there’s opportunities to have another business—multiple businesses—move in. There’s a whole host of things that could happen.”

The City of Bloomington is exploring potential “catalyst” projects to increase daily foot traffic downtown. Ham said “availability of property is key for catalyst projects.”

“And so you don’t know what’s on the horizon for what type of business that might fully utilize that facility, what type of mixed-use could be utilized to bring more people to the downtown area. I think we just have to very positive about things.”

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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