FREELAND — The concept of “business expansion” may be a foreign phrase in this economic climate as of late, but not in Freeland.
Taking shape in the old Harbor Village Square on Main Street is Whidbey Telecom’s new customer service center, complete with a WiFi-enabled Internet café and electronics retail store.
The new office will showcase a broad array of home and business technologies, as well as provide a new, high-tech education conference venue.
“We are planning to offer free community classes in the high-tech conference room, including computer, Internet and the latest in online trends,” said Whidbey Telecom Co-CEO George Henny.
“The entire project, from concept to finish, has been based around continuing to provide our local community with advanced technology solutions designed to make life easier while enhancing the customer experience,” Henny said. “This facility brings it all together in a one-stop shop for the customer.”
Co-CEO Julia DeMartini added that the new facility will enable the company to expand the customer’s experience by having more space to showcase solutions and provide hands-on demonstrations of technologies.
“This high-tech, community-inspired center will provide everything under one roof,” she said.
DeMartini, noting that since the Northwest seems to run on coffee, said the building will offer a fireside coffee venue, with locally produced coffees and a variety of food offerings.
“And all that awesome technology,” she added.
The building was designed by Langley’s FlatRock Productions and is being built by Gemkow Construction of Bayview. The telephone company recently acquired the adjacent parcel to which Webb’s Department Store is located; the exterior elevation includes Webb’s, which will remain open during the construction process.
Most of the framers, plumbers and electricians hail from Whidbey, said Gemkow foreman Jeff Doran.
“Everyone made a serious, conscious effort to see this place was built with local labor,” Doran said.
“Selecting local resources for this project complements our philosophy of investing locally and making choices that are eco-friendly,” DeMartini said. “In fact, the new building includes the largest solar array on Whidbey Island.
“Buying local is huge for us in supporting our community,” she added. “Technology is what we do, and this new facility is where we can do that, making it simple and easy for our customers.”
The retail store will allow customers to have an interactive experience with an array of solutions. Computers, security and alarm systems, cloud computing, networking, wireless, smart-home technology and “really cool gadgets,” Henny said.
“Imagine being able to turn on your lights and change the temperature in your home remotely through your smart mobile phone, or view your security cameras through a secure Internet Web connection,” Henny noted.
Though he wouldn’t provide a dollar figure, Henny said the center represents a significant capital investment to help revitalize downtown Freeland.
“We see a bright future for South Whidbey, and we’re putting our money to use to be sure that happens,” he said.
The new facility is expected to open in the fall. For more information, visit www.whidbeytel.com.