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Radio station relocates to Mills

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Alan Button, right, president of Life 103.1 WLQC-FM, Resource Services Associate Jessica Smith, center, and Administrative Receptionist Emily Allen review Allen's recorded audio track Tuesday in the main on-air studio at the radio station's new headquarters at Rocky Mount Mills.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

An FM radio station has settled into new office and studio space inside a suite at Rocky Mount Mills.

Life 103.1 in May shifted from Zebulon Commons on the northwest side of the city to the flourishing mixed-use commercial and residential development along the Tar River on the northwest side of downtown.

“We decided to relocate because we knew something about the quality of what Capitol Broadcasting had done in Durham,” Life 103.1 President Alan Button told the Telegram in a recent interview.

Button was referring to the parent company of Raleigh television station WRAL having renovated the old American Tobacco buildings and grounds, which was a major part of the resurgence of downtown Durham. Capitol Broadcasting presently is focusing on Rocky Mount Mills, whose campus was the scene of the second-oldest textile plant in North Carolina.

Life 103.1 is on the second floor of the main building and immediately is noticeable because of the station’s glass-enclosed high-tech broadcasting equipment.

“We became aware of the availability of this location, this particular suite, being in the center of the Mills project just off of the atrium,” Button said.

Button said he and his team thought this would be a great opportunity to take advantage of the visibility of — and being associated with — the Rocky Mount Mills project and the tenants and prospective tenants.

The new home of Life 103.1 offers visitors a view of the waters of the Tar River flowing through a spillway and past numerous rocks.

As for how Button and his team like the place, he said, “It’s terrific. It’s beautiful.

“And the Mills folks have just done a fabulous job making us feel welcome in accommodating our needs,” Button said.

Life 103.1 is the name of what locally is WLQC, with the radio station having gone on the air in October 2010 off Zebulon Road.

The station on the weekdays plays timeless favorites from the 1960s through today. On Saturdays, the station becomes a bit more diverse by playing bluegrass music. On Sunday mornings, the station plays faith-based inspirational music.

“Our priority is to have upbeat, family-friendly music,” Button said. “Unlike a lot of radio stations these days, we don’t pipe it in from some satellite servers. We do all our own programming.”

In fact, Button said grandmothers have told him of the music played on Life 103.1, “I don’t have to worry about my grandchildren hearing it while we’re driving around.”

Actually, there are two Life 103.1 radio stations, with the second one, WLHC, being based in Sanford southwest of the Raleigh-Durham area.

Button said because the programming is quite similar, motorists driving from Virginia to South Carolina through the Raleigh area initially will be hear the broadcast from the station in Rocky Mount. When they drive beyond the Raleigh area, they will hear the broadcast from the station in Sanford.

Except for the advertising and the weather forecasts, Button said listeners almost cannot tell the difference between the broadcasts from Rocky Mount and Sanford.

He said factoring in employees and independent contractors, the two Life 103.1 stations combined form a team of approximately 19-20 people.

Button grew up in upstate New York.

Prior to going into the broadcasting business, Button was an attorney and later worked in academia, mostly at the law school at Campbell University.

A 1989 article in The Campbell Lawyer newsletter about Button said he majored in biology at Cornell University, graduated from law school at Washington and Lee University and served as a clerk to a federal appeals court judge.

Button told the Telegram he was an attorney in the Empire State with a firm whose clients included Gannett. At the time, the news media giant’s then-chief executive officer, Al Neuharth, was establishing the USA Today newspaper to reach a mass audience.

Button said he worked for about 19 years as a professor at Campbell University’s law school and a couple of years as dean of an international law school in South Korea.

Prior to joining the law school faculty at Campbell, Button earned a master of laws degree from Cambridge University in England.

Button told the Telegram he always has loved culture and music.

“My first significant exposure to radio in any kind of focused way was when I was in high school working as a lifeguard at a local lake,” he said. “And I had lots of time to listen to the radio because there weren’t a lot of patrons. And so I would listen to the radio.”

Additionally, he noted, “For a long time, I’ve felt that there’s a lot of bad media out there. And I thought maybe I could help be part of the solution rather than the problem.”

The business hours for Life 103.1 at Rocky Mount Mills are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The phone number is 252-937-1031. Life 103.1 also has a Facebook page with nearly 1,580 followers.