State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin is pumped up that the longtime “Balkanization” of his agency is nearing its end.
The Insurance Department, currently dispersed among three Wake County sites, is headed for the 12-story, state-owned Albemarle building on Salisbury Street in downtown Raleigh after its $42.3 million renovation is completed, Goodwin said.
“I’ve been working on (consolidating at one location) throughout my two terms in office,” said Goodwin, who added that his predecessor, the late Jim Long, also pushed for a unified department.
Work hasn’t yet begun on the state’s plan to gut and renovate the Albemarle building. Goodwin estimates that the Insurance Department and its more than 410 employees will be able to move there in 2016.
Being in one location will increase efficiency, be more convenient for consumers and for the companies the department regulates, and boost employee morale, Goodwin said.
In addition, he said, it will save money. “We’re having to pay rent to the private locations. It’s a win-win for all concerned,” Goodwin said.
The Insurance Department currently pays $659,380 a year to private landlords for offices on Boylan Avenue and Chapanoke Road.
That’s on top of the $815,755 annual rent that the Insurance Department pays the state for the Dobbs building, on Salisbury Street about a block from the Albemarle building. (That’s right, the Insurance Department actually pays the state rent because its operations are funded by a regulatory surcharge paid by the insurance companies.)
How much rent the state will charge the agency for the Albemarle building hasn’t yet been set, said Insurance Department spokeswoman Kerry Hall.
The renovation of the Albemarle building is also enabling the Department of State Treasurer to consolidate its offices at a single site – but on the front end rather than the back end. Early next year, the Treasurer’s office will be vacating the Albemarle building, plus four other sites scattered across Wake County, and moving into a building on Raleigh’s Atlantic Avenue.
Separately, the Insurance Department also intends to open a new regional office in Charlotte before the end of the year.
The small office initially will house two full-time employees as well as having space for department employees based elsewhere who need to be in Charlotte.
“I’m in Charlotte myself several times a month,” Goodwin said.
The Insurance Department already has regional offices in Asheville and New Bern.