Eastern Oregon Telecom’s new headquarters are much larger than their previous ones, but it was still crowded on Thursday night as dozens of supporters and employees gathered to celebrate the new building.

The building wasn’t the only change they were marking. EOT announced two weeks ago that its parent company, Umatilla Electric, had sold it to senior management.

“This is exciting new times for all of us for a lot of reasons and I’m so grateful you’re here to celebrate,” Franell told the group.

Longtime members of the “EOT family” came from as far away as Las Vegas, California and Pendleton (which is “at least as far,” Franell joked) to celebrate with drinks and hors de’voeurs and drawings for gift baskets from local businesses who get their internet and phone service through EOT.

The new building, located at 2180 S.E. Kelli Blvd. in Hermiston behind the old Hermiston Foods plant, provides more office space for staff, extra restrooms, a reception area, increased amenities like a mail room and a large shop that allows the company to park its vehicles and equipment indoors and on site.

The extra room should come in handy as Eastern Oregon Telecom starts on the new, employee-owned leg of its journey. Franell said the new owners are still consulting with attorneys and employees before deciding how that will work. The company also expects to do some strategic planning before expanding into new service areas, which will likely result in additional staff. EOT currently has about 3,500 customers.

On Thursday Franell introduced the current staff to attendees before the ribbon cutting ceremony, noting their roles in making EOT run smoothly. The senior management team includes Franell, Chief Financial Officer Paul Keeler and Chief Operating Officer Richard Holbo.

Franell said when Keeler came to work for EOT he “changed the business forever” and got the company on a strong financial footing. EOT has been providing services since 2001, and Franell said those in the room who had been customers since the beginning knew that they had gone through some rocky times.

“For those who have seen the early days, it’s astounding how well we have come along,” he said.

He said after years on the Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce board, it was fun to be the recipient of one of the chamber’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the first time. Chamber director Debbie Pedro said Franell and EOT have always been a “great partner” for the chamber and in the community and it was exciting to see them get such a beautiful new building.

“We feel very fortunate, and proud of what you’ve accomplished,” she said.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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