When Telephone Lines At Last Came to Lacey

Run a line to Lacey? Sure … got a buck!

Pacific Northwest Bell (PNB) executives asserted it, Daily Olympian journalists investigated it and the State of Washington’s Department of General Administration (GA) confirmed it … the reason the state didn’t lease office space in Lacey was that it cost a dollar extra per month per line to run a line from the state’s telephone exchange in Olympia to Lacey, a distance of seven miles.

Now an extra dollar might not sound like much … especially if you’re paying for it with tax money … but even then, if you have hundreds or even thousands of lines, it can prove troublesome.

And it proved singularly troublesome for me since, just following a Daily Olympian’s series of investigative articles on the reason behind Lacey’s lack of state offices, I’d signed an agreement to act as leasing broker for some new offices there at a campus called RoweSix.

I was fairly new to the business of leasing back then. However, I’d been selling since before I could legally drive, so I figured that leasing, like pretty much everything else in commerce, came down to selling … which is why I’d initially refused a request by Rowesix’s developers to represent their project.

I thought their underlying concept for the development suffered from a fatal flaw, namely a fifty-thousand square foot shopping mall to be constructed along Sixth Avenue. I told them that in spite of its sylvan setting, its striking northwest-centric architecture, its bountiful borders and oases of native plants under canopies of fir and maple, a mall simply wouldn’t work there.

Not such a great spot for a shop

I told them no merchant in his or her right mind would set-up a shop hidden by leafy trees on a sleepy street with little vehicular traffic and single digit pedestrian counts.

Nope. It wouldn’t be a sensible investment of their time, money or energy … nor of mine.

A couple of months passed before the developers called me again. They’d received virtually no serious interest from anyone in the business community, and the only interest they could see was that which grew ominously on their construction loan.

They told me they’d re-considered their mall plan. They’d decided to lease the entire complex as office space. After my earlier warnings regarding the mall, I felt obliged to become their leasing broker.

I didn’t do so bubbling with enthusiasm for I knew that if I were to be successful I had to get the state to lease there. The prospects for that looked bleak. Of course if I could get the state to lease there I’d hit real estate gold!

But how could I overcome the dollar per line problem? I’d learned during my stint in the army that while the officers did all the talking us grunts did all the working. So I picked up the phone and dialed “O” for operator … I had an idea and needed to talk to some fellow grunts.

It’s gold! Real estate gold!

“I’m thinking of building a big hotel in Lacey,” I asked the friendly operator, “how can I handle all the telephone lines?” She said she didn’t know, but their business department would. In about an hour some helpful PNB people there told me a switchboard device called a Dimension 360 (or some such thing) would handle all my lines and link them via a single trunk line to a distant exchange.

They told me I’d need about one-hundred and fifty square feet of air conditioned space to house it … which was doable … and “only about $25,000 or so” to get one … not so doable (that’s about $100,000 in 2017 dollars).

“You know,” I cogitated, “there are other landlords in Lacey who’d like to lease offices to the state,” and after meeting with a few of the largest, I’d aroused sufficient interest to discuss the matter further with bigwigs at GA.

The working grunts at the agency loved it, but the idea hit a stop sign at top management. However I whined and whined and whined until I finally got a meeting scheduled with GA’s top people.

Sometimes mistakes can work out for the best!

I arrived for the meeting loaded for bear … but when I got there the state’s top leasing agent stopped me in the hallway outside the conference room.

“Sorry Joe,” he told me, “but the meeting’s been cancelled.”

“What?” I asked him, standing stunned like a mortally wounded bull elk waiting to fall, “what happened?”

“Well, it’s kind of funny really. In fact, everyone here’s got egg on their face. You see, they re-visited the matter and found out they were all wrong. There is no dollar extra per line charge for Lacey … which means we can lease from you in Lacey!”

I could have kissed him! I couldn’t believe it! It was a BINGO! moment for sure!

Over the next several years the state gobbled-up RoweSix almost as fast as the contractors could build it, which proved to me that nothing’s impossible if you work with those who actually do the work … and not just those who do the talking!



About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you can spend with them ... Joe
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