When many of us think about what it means to be a good corporate citizen, we typically point to philanthropic endeavors – and rightfully so. But, that’s just one, albeit critically important, dimension of leadership. A much less obvious – yet, often more enduring – demonstration is to pay tribute to those that have come before you.
SolarMax did precisely that back in 2012 when it made the decision to move its corporate headquarters from the City of Industry to the Inland Empire, re-designing an abandoned building that at one point not only enjoyed local – but national and international – significance. The company’s architecturally sensitive renovation of its 165,000 square-foot headquarters just east of the 91 freeway earned a special preservation award from the Old Riverside Foundation for adaptive re-use of a historic industrial building.
Besides serving for many years as a key manufacturing center for Food Machinery Corporation, the building enjoyed its greatest prominence as the plant that turned out the famed World War II amphibious vehicles known as “Water Buffalos.” The multi-purpose transport vehicles were made popular by five-star U.S. Army General Douglas MacArthur.
Years of inactivity and neglect following the plant’s closure left the sawtooth-roofed building in poor condition. That all changed in 2012, when SolarMax Co-Founder and Executive Vice-President Ching Liu and CEO David Hsu discovered the hidden treasure. Ching knew the south-facing structure would be perfect to capture and harness the sun’s power – and believed it possessed the right feng shui for SolarMax. It also symbolized the commitment David, Ching and fellow community leaders had to establish the Inland Empire as a world-class leader in renewable energy.
Ching said, “Before we ever swung the first hammer, we understood how important this building was to the development of this region and that meant so much to us. Our corporate home has effectively bridged two generations, creating tremendous economic opportunities for the people in Riverside and surrounding areas. We are so grateful – and honored – to carry that storied tradition into the future.”
The Old Riverside Foundation presented the award during the nonprofit’s recent annual meeting, held at the historic Willits J. Hole Mansion in the La Sierra area. Judges praised SolarMax for its willingness to save the structure.
Old Riverside Foundation Vice President Dr. Vincent Moses said, “This project reflects the very best of architectural preservation. The principals have maintained the unique structural elements of this mid-20 century commercial jewel and through thoughtful interior design have effectively re-defined its historical and cultural significance to the Riverside community.”