BLUEFIELD — After more than two years of planning and work, the Intuit/Alorica Prosperity Hub in Downtown Bluefield is ready, gradually bringing employees into the 30,000-sq.-ft. facility on Federal Street as the pandemic eases,

“We have about 30 employees working here now,” said John Miller, senior site director for Alorica.

Another 200 employees continue to work from home, he said, but will be moved into the newly renovated facility during the coming weeks, depending on corporate guidance related to the pandemic and the process of making sure everything is ready.

“We are trying to go slow with it … We are trying to make sure we work out the bugs,” he said. “We are doing it safely.”

The Prosperity Hub is the former Summit Bank Building that has been undergoing extensive renovations to prepare for up to almost 300 employees.

Founded in 1983, the California-based Intuit produces TurboTax, a consumer tax preparation application, the accounting program QuickBooks, Mint, professional tax solutions ProConnect Tax Online, ProSeries and Lacerte, and multiple payroll products.

Employees in Bluefield work with Intuit’s online products QuickBooks, software for operating small businesses, and Mint, personal  software program for finances and investments. They are helping online customers with the products using chats and voice calls.

Miller said that after the company made the initial announcement of locating in Bluefield in late March 2019, a temporary headquarters was used on Commerce Street but when the pandemic hit employees started working at home.

But training has continued as the workforce gradually expands.

“We will be hiring straight through the summer,” Miller said. “We have a QuickBooks class this week. People who are training now stay here and the rest will gradually be coming in.”

The Prosperity Hub is three stories, with entrances for staff on Federal Street and Bland Street.

Miller said some remnants of the bank remain, including the vault on the first floor, a centerpiece of the building’s history.

The first floor on Federal Street has the Human Resources department, offices for a recruiting team, and rooms for interviewing and completing paperwork.

A large kitchen/dining area is nearby, complete with microwaves and vending machines.

Nearby is a large training room as well as a conference room.

Miller said part of the training room’s walls are covered with “white boards” that can be used for writing much like old-fashioned blackboards.

“it’s really a cool set-up with the walls’ white boards,” he said.

Work stations are spread out in a large room on the second floor, which also features a game room with a ping-pong table, foosball and a place for X-Box.

A wellness room for nursing mothers is also nearby.

“We are working 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. in two shifts,” he said. “QuickBooks is Monday through Friday and Mint is also Saturday and Sunday.”

The third floor, which is level with Bland Street and includes the parking garage, has 25 more work stations.

“They have maximized the space in this building,” he said, and the design is modern and employee-centered.

Miller said recruiting people has been more difficult, as it has been with most businesses during the pandemic, and the retention rate is “about as we expected it to be.”

The Prosperity Hub is more than just a workplace, though. It has helped jumpstart a downtown renaissance.

“This building is a cornerstone of what happens in the city and we certainly understand that,” he said. “We understand that getting people in here is a key component for everything we want to do. We are going to do our part. We are just trying to be smart and cautious at the same time.”

Jim Spencer, Bluefield’s director of economic and community development, said Intuit/Alorica’s 2019 announcement of moving to Bluefield was “one of the biggest days in the history of Bluefield for the past 50 years.”

“It’s phenomenal,” he said. “It is a huge benefit to the downtown.”

Businesses continue to open downtown and more growth is expected as employees gradually fill the Prosperity Hub, which also includes an Innovation Lab for entrepreneurs and startup businesses in the Bluefield Arts Center across the street.

“We want to build on that success,” he said. “This is one of those projects that words don’t describe the impact it will have on the future of the City of Bluefield.”

Spencer said the Prosperity Hub is unique to this area, and its design is impressive.

“This is something you see in Silicon Valley,” he said, “and it’s right here in Bluefield.”

Spencer said Intuit and Alorica have worked closely with the city to make everything happen, and West Virginia native Brad Smith, Intuit Executive Chairman, said when the project was first announced Bluefield was chosen based on the city’s talent, vision and commitment.

Communities all around the world need help as well as big cities, but working in Bluefield is “strength meeting strength,” he said, pointing to Bluefield’s “proud history,” accomplishments and “impressive leadership and talent.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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