Optimism about a couple of industrial deals in Henry County was in abundant supply during Monday’s meeting of the Henry County Commission.
One move involves the purchase of about 400 acres of property on Russell Street that the county hopes to use to entice an industry here. The other move involves the sale of the long-empty industrial spec building on Culley Drive off Highway 641 southeast of Paris to a large Kentucky farm company that’s looking to move its operations more toward Henry County.
“This is a game-changer for the future of Henry County,” County Mayor Brent Greer told the commission as he and Paris Mayor Carlton Gerrell announced the two deals, which were finalized late last week.
COUNTY BUYS OLD KITTY LITTER SITE
Greer said the state had been given a list of eight potential industrial sites in the county about two years ago by the Paris-Henry County Industrial Committee. After studying those sites, the state recommended the 400-acre tract owned by Mineral Technologies, Inc. that was the former location of American Colloid, a kitty litter manufacturer that had previously been known as Southern Clay.
American Colloid shut down here in 2003.
“We needed to find a piece of property we could use for industrial recruitment,” Greer said. “This one is in a good location, with utilities already onsite, and it has direct rail access.”
In fact, the site is the only rail-served state-certified industrial site in Northwest Tennessee.
“The fact that rail service is available on the full length of the property makes it an extremely attractive site,” Greer said.
After negotiating for more than a year with Mineral Technologies, the industrial committee has entered into a three-year option to buy the site for $1 million.
The committee has applied for a grant from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to continue site development and do due diligence on the property.
SPEC BUILDING SOLD
Fifteen years ago, the industrial committee had a 60,000-square-feet spec building constructed just off Highway 641 southeast of Paris, with the idea being to bring industries to the county to either buy the building or just to look at the building and see what the community had to offer.
For 15 years, that building has been empty in what is now an industrial park.
But that is apparently ending, as Workman Farms of Murray has bought the building for $450,000.
Terry Workman and his family are significant property owners in Henry County already, Greer said, owning quite a bit of land in the northwest part of the county. It does business in tobacco seed, greenhouse supplies (it owns numerous greenhouses along Highway 69 northwest of Paris near the Kentucky state line), irrigation, tobacco equipment and farming.
But Greer said Workman’s plan here is to use the spec building for the storage and production of hemp products. The hemp industry has been on a rapid rise in recent months.
The industrial committee had actually reached an agreement 15 months ago to lease the spec building to Revel Enterprises as part of a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program. That deal fell apart, though, when Revel encountered serious financial problems and went out of business earlier this year.
The commission voted Monday to rescind its agreement with Revel from June 2018.
A portion of the $450,000 received from Workman Farms is going to be used on the deal with Mineral Technologies, so the two new industrial deals are somewhat interlocking.
“Like they used to say on ‘The A-Team,’ I love it when a plan comes together,” Greer said.
The biggest challenge the county faces on the industrial front right now, he said, is to develop a local workforce that can serve existing industries and now the anticipated new one on Russell Street.
In an unrelated piece of business Monday, the commission approved a resolution backing a state Department of Transportation plan to build an industrial access road off Barnhill Road northeast of Paris to serve North American Caviar, a wholesale fish and roe dealer that recently began operating in Henry County.