Two industries eye empty Propex facility

Published 8:43 pm Friday, January 24, 2014

After sitting empty for over three years, it now appears that two companies are interested in moving into the facility formerly occupied by Propex. Located in the Decatur County Industrial Park, the facility has one million square feet under roof on 100 acres and has been unoccupied since Propex ceased operations in October of 2010.
Meredian Inc, the Bainbridge-based biopolymer company headquartered close by in the industrial park, is eyeing the facility to accommodate future expansion plans.
Bainbridge businessman Tim Smith and local farmer Greg Calhoun, both investors and board members of Meredian, Inc, spoke at Thursday’s Development Authority of Bainbridge and Decatur County board meeting to ask the board’s help to acquire the empty facility.
“Our concept at Meredian has changed tremendously. We have the world’s largest PHA lab right there and we’re going to sell technology more than anything else,” explained Smith. “The reason we need this building so bad is so we can get these Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies to come in and take the space so we can work on their needs.”
Smith indicated that the immediate need would be with Henkel, the world’s largest producer of glues and adhesives, to develop biodegradable glues to meet their customer requirements. Up to 200,000 square feet would be required to work on this project, according to Smith.
Roughly 50 “high paying” jobs would be created with the working relationship with Henkel, according to Smith.
“Our idea is to get that big building (the Propex building) and give each one of these huge companies that are calling us the space they need so that we can work on their individual needs,” said Smith. “This building is a big need for us.”
“The building is something we need the Development Authority to buy and let us work out a deal for us to occupy,” said Smith.
Calhoun told the IDA board that some of the space in the empty building would be allocated to a canola seed crushing plant to produce the resulting oil. The canola business would operate as an independent company under the holding group that also controls Danimer and Meredian.
“We would build the plant inside the Propex building and we would charge a fee for crushing the canola seed,” said Calhoun. “Then the canola farmers could share in the profits from the resulting oil and the cake.”
The second potential occupant of the vacant building is a confidential prospect that would operate a manufacturing facility and create 300 jobs almost immediately, according to Rick McCaskill, Executive Director of the IDA.
“They appear to have the funds in hand to purchase the building and they are not asking us to buy the building for them,” said McCaskill.
McCaskill said the requested environmental surveys on the facility are expected to be complete within two weeks and if the surveys come back clear, the prospect is prepared to make an earnest payment to Propex, the owner of the building, in order to begin a 90-day engineering study on the facility. After the engineering study is complete, the company would want to close the purchase of the building in 30 days.
“The difference between the two deals is that Meredian wants us to purchase the building and lease it back to them, while the other prospect is using their own money to purchase the building, using us to gain the state incentives and tax advantages,” said Keith Lyle, chairman of the IDA.
The IDA board made no commitments to either interested party and agreed to wait until the results of the environmental study are returned before making any decisions.

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