Quick return to downtown Cedar Rapids for United Fire Group

Insurer's employees worked off site for 12 weeks after 2008 flood

The United Fire Group properties on First Avenue and Second Street SE, are seen from the parking ramp of Cedar River Tower on Friday, June 5, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The United Fire Group properties on First Avenue and Second Street SE, are seen from the parking ramp of Cedar River Tower on Friday, June 5, 2015. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

United Fire Group employees will return Monday to the company’s headquarters complex in downtown Cedar Rapids, a far cry from the 12 weeks needed to make building repairs after the June 2008 flood.

Franklin Rainbolt, UFG maintenance supervisor, said the company took steps to minimize potential damage from the 2016 flood.

“We got everything out of the five basements by last Saturday and then we waited for the river to crest,” Rainbolt said. “As soon as it started to come back down, we came back in and found that we had two basements with water in them.

“One of the basements had 3 to 4 feet, so we started pumping that out right away. We waited on the other one because it was only about 6 inches at the time and kind of leveled off.

“Our supply department was the only office function in the basement. We’re going to set them up (in a different location) until we can get the basement refinished.”

Rainbolt said the company learned a lot from the 2008 flood, implementing a disaster plan that maintained operations.

“Pretty much everyone was working from home, connecting to our disaster site at Involta in Marion,” he said. “We had about 20 people stationed up at Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust in a basement room.”

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Rainbolt said eight semi-trailers were filled with materials from the basements of the UFG buildings and moved to Blairstown. Workers were unloading the trailers downtown on Friday in preparation for a resumption of operations on Monday.

“Everyone has been instructed to come back Monday for their normal hours” he said.

UFG employs 625 in downtown Cedar Rapids and 1,025 full and part-time nationwide. The company has announced plans to build a new 10-story office tower adjacent to the 10-story American Building at 101 Second St. SE, which it purchased in January 2014 and expects to remodel.

UFG has said it expects to add 50 employees in connection with the expansion and remodeling project.

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