A statement sent to Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Committee members Dec. 1. announced that the Board has “secured a letter of intent” from a corporation to lease its building “beginning in the next two months.”
Staff – the number of which has decreased over the years after rounds of layoffs and early retirement offers – will be moved to two locations.
“The plan is to move the accounting and human resources staff into an office on Brogdon Exchange in Suwanee,” said GBMB Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr. “The remainder of the Duluth-based staff will move into a local church.”
Assistant GBMB Executive Director Mark Marshall told Baptist Press the church will likely be identified within the next week, adding that no further details of the lease agreement are available.
The five-story, 175,000-square-foot building at 6405 Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth sits in a highly-sought real estate sector of Gwinnett County across the street from the Gas South District, which includes an arena, convention center and theater.
The building includes a 55-foot cross in a pond out front, chapel, meeting spaces and a two-story parking deck. Georgia Baptist messengers dedicated the $43.5 million facility at their 2006 annual meeting.
“Projections are that the Mission Board could save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on utilities, maintenance and operational costs by moving out of the Sugarloaf building,” the statement to executive committee members read.
State leadership began exploring the sale of the building a decade ago. A contract was signed in April 2021 with a buyer, but fell through after the Gwinnett County Commission rejected a rezoning proposal key to the sale.
Rounds of layoffs
Staff layoffs in recent years became necessary, said leaders, due to a sluggish economy, declining Cooperative Program gifts and a pattern of overspending.
Layoffs began in early 2019. In November 2020, 50 employees were offered early retirement in order to “right-size” the organization’s finances. This summer, a mid-year budget adjustment led to 14 positions – some already vacant – being eliminated.
Currently, Marshall said, “about 30” full-time staff work daily at the building, with another 35-40 working primarily around the state. There are approximately 32 more under a part-time or contracted agreement.
“It makes sense to right-size our office space,” Hammond said. “It’s the prudent thing to do. Especially with having much of our staff already serving out of the office and in the field.”
At the beginning of 2021, GBMB staff had been centralized to the fifth floor that had previously been specified as executive space. No other groups subsequently leased the unoccupied floors, Marshall said.
The Georgia Baptist Foundation, a separate organization that works with the GBMB and churches throughout the state, remained on its floor but in recent months moved out of the building.