Business Journal Article

Company News

Ohio Utilities Protection Services Opens New Headquarters

By Dan O’Brien | April 13, 2018

NORTH JACKSON, Ohio – The Ohio Utilities Protection Services, now rebranded as Ohio 811, is comfortably operating from sleek new offices here, retaining 70 jobs at its new headquarters at 12467 Mahoning Ave.

“Our employees are long-standing employees, and it was important for them to stay in the Valley and important to us to not move away from that experienced workforce,” said Roger Lipscomb, executive director of OUPS.

The agency relocated in January from its three-building campus on Belmont Avenue to a single, 17,000-square-foot building on the corner of Mahoning Avenue and Bailey Road. The $4.2 million building includes a spacious conference room, a well-lit and open data and call center, additional offices and even a fitness area on the lower floor.

Olsavsky Jaminet Architects Inc. of Youngstown designed the building. It was among the last projects that company president Ray Jaminet Sr. oversaw before his death two weeks ago.

Local elected officials, community leaders and guests joined Lipscomb and OUPS staff for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Thursday.

The organization acts as command central for the entire state when it comes to identifying underground utility lines, information that is vital to the safety of construction workers and residents who work around these utilities.

Lipscomb said it was imperative that OUPS scout for another location because its previous site in Liberty Township was no longer suitable for the agency’s expansion plans.

“We wanted to keep it here in the Valley,” Lipscomb said. “We’re operating with our seasonal workforce at 70 employees. We have plans over the next several years to add a number of other positions.”

Steve Schafer, chairman of the OUPS Board of Directors, said there were discussions over where to locate the new offices, including whether it would make more sense to move to Columbus.

But Schafer said the expertise and the experience of the organization’s staff precluded any decision to move from the Mahoning Valley. “It was something that was unanimously decided that we needed to keep it in the area,” he noted. “This is a great area, a great community.”

OUPS acts as a single point of contact for utility information related to any excavation project across Ohio, Lipscomb said. Contractors or residents should call 811 before they begin digging so the agency can alert utility companies, who then determine the location of underground gas, power or water lines buried on a site.

Aside from calling, users can log on to the agency’s website and fill out information about any excavation project, Lipscomb said.

Once a call comes in, OUPS immediately dispatches notifications to all of the public and private utilities about the project. These utilities gather the necessary information and within 48 hours mark the pathways of all buried utility lines at the site.

The agency was founded in Youngstown in 1972 and last year received more than 1.3 million requests for information. That translates into more than 9.2 million notices OUPS sent out to different utilities during 2017, Lipscomb said.

“This is the primary hub for Ohio,” he said. “It all happens right here.”

Along with new offices, Lipscomb said that the agency is undergoing a branding campaign that emphasizes the organization does business as Ohio 811. “With all of the marketing strategies and advertising around that, it made sense to incorporate the 811 message into what we do,” he said.

OUPS is in discussions with the Oil and Gas Producers Underground Protection Services about merging services. “It would make sense for all of us to operate under the Ohio 811 moniker,” Lipscomb said. “That’s kind of the direction we’re looking to go.”

Jackson Township Trustee Alan Hemphill said the new data center is a great addition to the community.

“It’s a nice showpiece for Jackson Township,” he said. “We’re very happy to have the building here and to have Ohio 811 as an employer.”

Pictured: Ohio Utilities Protection Services Executive Director Roger Lipscomb at the organization’s new headquarters in North Jackson.

Copyright 2018 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.