HTM Insurance celebrates new building in Cobourg
Present at the ribbon cutting for the new HTM Insurance Company building were (from left) John Taylor, Cobourg Mayor Gil Brocanier, company chair Bruce Buttar and president Alec Harmer, Northumberland-Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi, town crier Mandy Robison and Steve Smith. CECILIA NASMITH/Northumberland Today
So many people turned out for Thursday’s opening of the new HTM Insurance Company building that the company offered a shuttle service from Northumberland Mall to ferry them.
Though, in fairness, it must be mentioned they blocked off their parking lot to bring in catering tents and all the fixin’s for a big community celebration for the people dropped off from the vehicles supplied by Vandermeer Toyota ad Spencer Chevrolet.
Dignitaries included politicians from every level of government, as well as nonagenarian Doug Johnson who — according to his son John, also a retired insurance professional — is the company’s oldest past president.
Johnston, who is 95, shared memories of being recruited for the company about half a century ago (he was only 45 at the time, he said).
The massive modern structure at the corner of County Road 2 and Wilkins Gate on Cobourg’s west end is the newest home for the company that began in 1898 as the Hamilton Township Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company.
Company chair Bruce Buttar said that the company began under the leadership of David Eagleson when a group of Hamilton Township farmers wanted financial security from devastating fires at a reasonable cost. Immediately, they issued 117 policies valued at more than $150,000.
One of them was for the farm where Buttar lived and grew up, he said, which means that farm has held one of the company’s policies for 118 years.
That company operated out of the home of its secretary in Cold Springs until 1943, when it purchased a house on Durham Street in Cobourg for about $3,000.
Then, in 1981, the $300,000 building on Division Street North opened.
In 2015, “the directors had a vision of a new office building for a growing company — the old office had become too small and outdated for the staff and the technology needed to run a company today,” Buttar related.
He recalled the 26 meetings the building committee had held at the old premises, and the 24 they held (wearing helmets and work boots) in the construction trailer at the new site.
“The result is what you see today — a unique design of a building,” Buttar said.
The amenities of the 16,000-sq.-ft. structure were listed, and later shown off by employees on various tours.
Clara Wright demonstrated how her desktop rises at the touch of a button so she can work standing up — accommodating the latest research that warns workers against becoming too sedentary.
Wright was pleased with how the company had asked for employees’ input, and had actually taken their comments into account. One result is the weight room whose equipment she makes use of each morning before work.
She also likes the closet-sized quiet room with a simple couch and table, which she said is a great place to go for a few quiet moments to make a private phone call or just decompress.
The employee lunchroom has a complete kitchen, and the window wall in the seating area overlooks a large back patio with beautiful landscaping and beckoning outdoor furniture.
Along with all the new fittings, the company included in its construction plans a niche for the company’s original safe from 1898, complete with old ledgers and wooden drawers for storing policies.
As Mayor Gil Brocanier said to the crowd at the opening, “if there’s anything I like better than a new business, it’s a business expansion.”
Brocanier commended the company on being good corporate citizens — not only providing jobs and a reliable service to the community, but also in supporting the Cobourg Community Centre during its construction.
He also commended them on providing a gift to the area in the form of a new community room. With a capacity of 100 and a full kitchen attached, it will be made available to non-profit organizations in their policy-holder area. Specific procedures for offering it haven’t been finalized, but the intent is to offer it free of charge.
In his remarks, president Alec Harmer said HTM has the three things that make for a good company — good technology, good culture and a physical presence.
The technology is the latest, Harmer said.
The people live and breathe the company slogan, “You’re with family.”
“And we have this great building that’s a symbol of HTM and what it has become and will continue to be,” he said — “modern and bold.”