December 5, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Walking into the lobby of the new downtown Omaha headquarters of Gavilon, a commodities trading firm, is like walking into the future—a $44 million testament to the awesome capabilities of electronics, fiber optics, and the human mind. To the eye, the lobby, in hues of gray, appears elegant in its simplicity. Walls that reach up to a very high ceiling are bare except for the word “GAVILON” in large silver letters above the security desk. Four low-sitting, squared-off beige leather chairs trimmed in chrome in a Mid-Century Modern vibe could have come from the set of Mad Men.

To the ear, however, the building at 1331 Capitol Ave. is pure state-of-the-art. A litany of beeps breaks the lobby’s stillness as employees scan their ID badges against doors and elevators. Without a badge, no employee would get past the parking garages, which form the first two floors of the five-story building. Security is multi-layered and includes 65 cameras—a necessity that becomes obvious when looking down from the fourth floor railing onto the heart of the operation: the massive trading floor.

A 35,000-square-foot hub of activity, the trading floor is the “wow” factor of Gavilon. It occupies more than half of the third floor of the building and faces Dodge St. to the south, while the IT section takes up the rest of the room along Capitol. Hundreds of traders on headsets stand at their desks or sit at computers, buying and selling grain and fertilizer for transport on a global scale. The trading floor of Gavilon emits a continuous low hum of voices, thanks in part to the 22-foot-high ceilings and carpeting that help dampen the sound.

“We wanted a very open and a very collaborative workspace,” says Robert W. Jones, Gavilon’s chief administrative officer and the company’s point man on the project. “There are no columns on the trading floor, creating an environment that allows for real-time communication and information sharing.”

The trading floor sits on an 18-inch raised platform that “controls the cooling and ventilation management, the cable and power management with 85 miles of copper and five miles of fiber optics under the floor,” Johnson explains, clearly proud of the achievement.

When Gavilon’s 400 Omaha employees (expected to rise to 750 eventually) moved into the new global headquarters last December from their former location on the ConAgra campus, they discovered plenty of amenities. The dining area offers full-service breakfast and lunch, with an outdoor patio overlooking TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. Coffee bars abound, as do conference rooms, huddle rooms for impromptu meetings, and phone rooms for privacy. The virtual environment allows employees to sign in to any computer in any room. They can also access information at home.

When asked if he might have done anything differently, Jones admits that, “I would have made the fitness center a bit bigger.” With the fifth floor finished but unfurnished in anticipation of growth, that idea might just go from virtual to reality some day.

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