Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Assn., will expand its local loan servicing operations into a new office complex that will be developed in the former All-Star Dairy building, Second and McDonald Drive.
Elaine Nelson, manager of Sallie Mae's Lawrence loan servicing center, said this morning that she has signed a lease for 16,000 square feet of space in the new office complex, which is planned by an investment group headed by Bo Harris of Harris Construction.
Harris has said he and his partners in Star Group L.L.C. plan to transform the 55,000-square-foot dairy plant into office space to serve several tenants in addition to Sallie Mae.
NELSON SAID she expected Sallie Mae to begin moving employees into the space, which must be extensively remodeled, around Sept. 1. The block of space leased by Sallie Mae will make it the anchor for the new complex.
Star Group, which also includes Bob Moore and E.J. Allison of Advanco, a local development firm, bought the building last month from Mid-American Dairymen Inc. of Springfield, Mo. Mid-American closed All-Star Dairy four years ago, and the building has been vacant since.
Nelson said Sallie Mae had been looking for additional space to lease since the first of the year.
She said the Lawrence loan servicing center, the largest of five operated by the corporation, has outgrown its 52,000-square-foot building at 2000 Bluffs Dr., which is about about two blocks south of the Star Group's planned office complex.
THE LOCAL Sallie Mae center, which services about 700,000 loan accounts and processes about $60 million in loan payments every month, employs about 550 people, Nelson said. About 55 of them have been hired since the first of the year.
Nelson said plans are to move about 125 employees who work in "remedial servicing" departments into the new office space. Those employees tend to accounts that are in default or have irregular payment histories.
The Lawrence center is handling about 50,000 more loan acocunts than it did a few years ago, Nelson said.
"We've gradually grown," she said. "We've increased our service levels. We've increased our commitment to quality customer service. That's increased our staffing needs."
Sallie Mae, which has its corporate headquarters in Washington, D.C., opened its local loan servicing operations in 1984 and moved into its current building in 1987. The company buys federally guaranteed student loans from banks and services them until repayment is complete.