A full-sized basketball court; a Pantry Market to grab a bite to eat; a digital wall and scrolling message board; a coffee house; a gameroom; a bar and stage; stylish seating and meeting spaces; and even a purple 1974 VW Vanagon previously used as a working ice cream truck.
It sounds like the perfect ingredients for a thriving lifestyle center, a modern-day college campus, or a popular entertainment district. But this list is a sampling of the unique amenities and features built into Vibrant Credit Union’s new headquarters in Moline.
After having his staff work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vibrant President and CEO Matt McCombs knew it was essential to “create a space where people want to come back to work to. Two years folks have been home. The new space was one of the reasons they came back.”
Adding to the project’s creativity and uniqueness is the fact that all these amenities – and more – were retrofitted into a vacant big box store off John Deere Expressway. The former Sam’s Club warehouse store, which closed in January 2018, now is home to the 90-year-old credit union whose roots trace to the Great Depression and a group of forward-thinking John Deere Harvester Works employees.
“We didn’t want to build something new, and because of the economy, a number of large buildings were open,” Mr. McCombs said. “We wanted to reuse a space and have everyone on one level.”
Opened in mid-March, work continues on the headquarters conversion including the buildout of a new Vibrant branch inside the main entrance, which the public will get its first look at in July. Once operational, Vibrant members will do their banking and interact with tellers remotely via the credit union’s vibrantLive technology as they do in all Vibrant’s branches.
Thanks to the variety of workspaces – private and collaborative, as well as the flexibility to pick up a laptop and work anywhere in the new headquarters, he said “We’re about 90% back in the office.”
Room for other businesses
Vibrant chose to renovate the 140,000-square-foot vacant Sam’s – occupying 70,000 square feet of it. The remainder will house other businesses, including a new Vibrant-owned coffee house open to the public. An empty 12,000-square-foot space in the back of the building will be leased for $1 a year to an unnamed nonprofit, which will move in sometime in 2023, Mr. McCombs told the QCBJ.
One of his main goals was to create a single-level office environment as opposed to a commonplace multi-floor office building. “There always seems to be a spot where leaders go and hide, we didn’t want that …,” he said.
As a result, the center of the building is now a common area where people can work, relax or enjoy lunch. But off the commons are two main office wings – filled with individual pods, cubes and desks that house the sales staff on one side and support staff on the other.
The 40-year-old Mr. McCombs – grew up in the credit union business and followed his father’s footsteps. During his career, Fred McCombs led a once small Deere credit union in Ottumwa, Iowa, today known as Community First Credit Union.
Now with his own team to lead, the younger Mr. McCombs said his goal was to foster an environment that creates a world-class culture generating high-performance results. It also builds on Vibrant’s culture and dedication to providing member service through a surprisingly different experience. “At Vibrant, we live this value each and every day,” he said.
“Coolest financial institution”
Transforming an oversized warehouse into a modern office with soundproof office pods, and all the latest digital technologies was the job of Davenport-based Russell. The building was designed by West Des Moines-based SVPA Architect, which had designed Hy-Vee’s technology center (also a converted warehouse), Mr. McCombs said.
“It was a new and very unique build for a credit union,” said Russell Project Manager Sarah Perkins, who led the project with Russell’s Project Manager Trevor Meyers and Superintendent Erik Hanssen. “Most banking facilities feel very banking-like … this one has an overall collaborative feeling.”
“A basketball court is not typically something you’d put in an office,” she said. “They will bring in bands on occasion, they have a bar that is super cool… Talk about lucky employees.”
“It’s by far, the coolest financial institution I’ve ever worked on,” said Ms. Perkins, a 25-year veteran of Russell’s construction and development company.
Mr. McCombs said the gym is not only a place to blow off steam and play a pickup game or some dodgeball, but its vast space finally gives Vibrant the ability to hold an all-staff meeting. Vibrant recently gathered its entire staff together for its first all-staff gathering in five years.
Ms. Perkins said the project unfolded over a couple years beginning with Russell’s real estate team “thinking that Sam’s Club is an opportunity.” After pitching the concept to Vibrant, Russell purchased, re-sold the building to Vibrant and then retrofitted it over the past year.
The project had its challenges, particularly supply chain issues gripping industries across the globe. “It was a constant battle in chasing materials,” she said. “That was a huge, huge issue – from rooftop units to electrical and mechanical equipment to wood doors and glass. There was nothing that was easy to get, even little signs for the restrooms would take you months to get.”
Mr. McCombs said the saving grace was that Vibrant “locked in (material costs) before the pricing changed” and owned its own oversized warehouse. “We were able to order all our materials early and have them loaded into this building to keep them protected.”
Why the move
Previously located at 1900 52nd Ave., behind Moline’s SouthPark Mall, Vibrant was bursting at the seams. “We had outgrown our headquarters two years ago – before COVID. We were out of space, and out of parking for almost five years,” he said, adding that Vibrant rented two adjacent parking lots for its expanding staff.
The explosive growth was driven, in large part, because the credit union’s assets have grown from $400 million in 2011 (the year Mr. McCombs joined it) to $1.1 billion today. Membership now is more than 55,000 members. Vibrant has added five other wholly-owned subsidiaries, or Credit Union Service Organizations (CUSO), including ones engaged in the insurance and title business, property management, software development and soon, a coffee shop.
“The financial services industry is changing pretty rapidly,” he said, adding that all the new business lines create new avenues for “how we engage customers outside of banking.”
On a recent tour with the QCBJ, Mr. McCombs spoke with pride of the atmosphere and working environment Vibrant has created. His staff played a key role in the planning, which helped ensure a smooth transition from remote work to returning to the office.
“One of the big areas where employees got involved was deciding what fun things they wanted for here,” he said.
Along with a Lockbox Bar with its faux vault door, there is a stockpile of board games available, and unusual bleacher seating – not inside the gym. In addition, the employees named all the collaborative spaces for fictional places such as Narnia, Matrix, Cheers and Rydell High.
Bell-ringing scooters are parked throughout to make traveling through the massive space fun and convenient. “It was not my idea but I’m just as guilty of taking one,” Mr. McCombs said.
Some amenities might seem unorthodox for a professional, financial institution. Mr. McCombs is quick to admit an auditorium would have provided the same meeting space, but not have been as engaging as the games of basketball and dodgeball now happening regularly.
“I thought, why do something traditional that’s not going to be used,” he said. In fact, the gym also opens the door to inviting the community in more. Some of the Missouri Valley Conference coaches already have arranged for their women’s basketball teams to practice there in 2023.
This actually marks Vibrant’s third total office conversion: it previously transformed a Wendy’s restaurant on Davenport’s Brady Street into a branch and converted the former Heilig Meyers Co. furniture store into its previous headquarters. “We’re a big believer in revitalizing,” Mr. McCombs said.
Vibrant – at a glance
New headquarters: 6600 44th Ave., Moline, in the former Sam’s Club.
Founded: 1935 as Deere Harvester Credit Union.
History: At the height of the Great Depression, eight John Deere Harvester Works employees devised a better way for ordinary people to borrow money. Each contributed $5 into a pool. Any of them could ask to borrow from it – paying it back at a lower interest rate than required by the banks of the day.
Assets: From the original $40 invested, Vibrant’s assets have grown to more than $1 billion.
Members: From eight founding members, the credit union now serves more than 55,000 members.
Current workforce: 226
Leadership: President/CEO Matt McCombs, who was 101st employee when he joined the credit union in 2011 as executive vice president-sales. He was named president and CEO in 2013.
New name: In May of 2015, the then DHCU Community Credit Union was renamed Vibrant Credit Union to “better reflect its approach to financial services,” Mr. McCombs said at the time.
Branch locations: Nine branches spread across three Midwest states: Iowa – Bettendorf, Clinton, Davenport and Des Moines; Illinois – Geneseo, Milan and Moline (2) and Covington, Indiana.