A DEFINITE IMPROVEMENT: Ribbon-cutting at new Lowe's store marks $12.5 million investment and promise of 124 jobs
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Feb. 13, 2004 -- For anyone familiar with traditional chamber of commerce ribbon-cutting ceremonies to officially welcome a new business to the community, the event at the new Lowe's store Wednesday was a new experience.

A store full of Sulphur Springs residents was greeted with a pep rally by store employees and introductions before 8th District Judge Robert Newsom was invited to cut a ribbon-wrapped 2x8 piece of lumber with a hand saw rather than a simple ribbon.

The welcome from Lowe's manager Erika Nelson also took official openings to a new level as the store presented a check for $1,000 to Sulphur Springs Independent School District Superintendent Mark Henry and assistant superintendent Patsy Bolton as a symbol of the company's commitment to the community.

While the Sulphur Springs Lowe's may not be as large as stores closer to Dallas, Nelson said the store will stock more than 32,000 different items to help customers build, improve and beautify their homes.

"We're one of the smaller stores they are bringing on," Mrs. Nelson said. "We're 94,000 square feet. In the Metroplex you will see them a little bigger."

The Rockwall store, for example, is 114,000 square feet.

The Sulphur Springs store represents an approximately $12.5 million investment for the company and Nelson said the number of employees will make a significant impact on the local economy.

"A great impact," she said. "More than anything, on the economy of Sulphur Springs, because we are adding jobs. In this store, when we get done, we will have 124 employees, and right now I am sitting at about 96 employees, and over 90 percent of those employees live in Sulphur Springs."

The financial impact from the new jobs at Lowe's will be significant, as well. According to Nelson, more than half of the projected sales will go to payroll.

"In our first year, we are scheduled to do a little over $2 million," she said. "A little over 60 percent of my sales, $1.2 million, will go to payroll."

The opening of the new store came as a result of several years of planning, during which time the company has had an eye on Sulphur Springs watching its growth potential.

Perhaps more significant than the growth potential were the people of Sulphur Springs, who provided the main attraction for the company, Nelson said.

"We like the people. The values of the people here are so different from what you see in the Metroplex - that people actually care about each other," she said. "Lowe's is looking for that close-knit family place, which is why we like to hire from within a community, because we know if we hire from within the community, we will get the type of customer service we're looking for."

Nelson cited a new trend in which people are starting to move away from bigger cities as one of the reasons for the local growth.

"We have a lot of people that are getting away from the city and want to move out a little further, mainly because of property and the value of family these days - they're going back to family values," she explained. "Instead of living in the Metroplex and having a huge home, they are wanting to come back to a smaller community where they feel safe, and Sulphur Springs is one of those places where people can feel safe."

The community values normally taken for granted in Hopkins County will, in the future, continue to have an impact on the growth of the area.

"I can see this area growing, and it's going to continue to grow, to keep the values you guys already have here," she said.

On her first day in town, Nelson said there were people coming up and speaking to her, something that doesn't happen in Dallas.

Following ribbon cutting ceremonies, Lowe's opened the doors to the families of the new employees to give them the first look at what has been accomplished in just more than a month.

"When we walked in here on Dec. 31, there was nothing but a blank slate ... concrete, four walls, that was it," Nelson said. "It is just so good to see the smiles on their faces and the pride these people have when they bring their families in and show them, 'This is what I did.'"

Lowe's will open to the public Friday, Feb. 13, and grand opening festivities are planned for Wednesday, Feb. 18.

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