HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - For nearly four years now, dozens of Coast Electric employees have been working out of trailers on Highway 603 in Hancock County.
"We've been, shall I say, a little inconvenienced and a little unsettled," said Coast Electric President and CEO Robert Occhi.
Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, the company sold its central office complex in Bay St. Louis and moved its headquarters to the Kiln. The company had outgrown the former complex and storm damage only pushed up the moving plans.
Despite the rough conditions in the temporary trailers, Occhi says his employees never complained.
"They're very loyal and they're unselfish and they knew this day would eventually come," he said.
That day is the groundbreaking for a new $7.7 million corporate building, located right next to the trailers. Construction has already started on the 57,000 square foot facility.
"The design process has been very lengthy, but we wanted to do it right," said Occhi. "We wanted a very functional building with few bells and whistles that would remain functional far into the future."
The facility has two, two-story buildings. One houses central services.
"There will be drive-in facilities here so people can make their payments here, apply for service, meet with engineers and service technicians," said Occhi.
The other building will be an annex. It features a large meeting room and commercial kitchen for employee functions. The space is also available, free of charge, for community events and public meetings. There's even room for future expansion to help serve 75,000 customers in Hancock, Harrison and Pearl River Counties.
"It's not only a stimulus for Highway 603, but it's just a wonderful icon for Hancock County," said District 3 Supervisor Lisa Cowand. "You guys could have gone anywhere, but you chose Hancock County and it's a blessing to us as supervisors. "
The new buildings should be finished by December of 2010. The company still has a branch office in Bay St. Louis.
Here's an interesting note: Coast Electric sold its former corporate complex to Bay St. Louis. The city is using those buildings for city hall, police and fire departments, and other city services. Meanwhile, Coast Electric is using the old city hall trailers for its temporary headquarters on Highway 603.