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Hopes dashed for opening of new manufacturing plant

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Plans for a new manufacturing plant disclosed in December amid high hopes for 50 new jobs with benefits have crumbled, several officials involved with the effort said Wednesday.

TBI Investments Inc. of Summersville, W.Va. will not be opening the plant at 5210 Strasburg Road after efforts to obtain financing fell through, according to some of those close to the project.

"They're staying where they are, and we're moving on," county board member Richard Traczyk said of TBI.

Lindsay W. Ray, TBI's president, insisted that he had received no official word on financing and was "still waiting."

"I don't know what's happening," Ray said.

But Ray admitted signing a release earlier this month that allowed OakCrest Commercial Real Estate to place the 17.26-acre site back on the market for a price listed at almost $2 million on its website. The 54,780-square foot building at the site was last occupied by North American Housing

Brett Haynes, a member of the board of directors for the Economic Development Authority of Warren County and Front Royal and an associate broker with OakCrest, said the property was put up for sale again on April 10 after his firm had received the release from TBI. Haynes identified the owner of the property as Champion Homebuilders of Troy, Mich.

Haynes said he believed Ray still wanted to open a plant at the defunct site, but has been stymied in obtaining the financing to do so.

"It's not a reflection on the county or the company, it's just the way things play out in today's economy, Haynes said.

Ray and local officials spoke optimistically of hiring for the new plant in December, only a few weeks after plans were disclosed at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Supporters projected the plant would bring 50 jobs with an average pay of $42,000.

But the site remained abandoned and forlorn for weeks afterward. By the end of December, Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the Economic Development Authority, said TBI was still trying to win financing, a process that could drag on for several months.

Traczyk said the fate of the project comes as a disappointment. TBI planned to use the site to manufacture and remanufacture equipment for mining and construction companies. Traczyk said the company had customers lined up for its products and services once production began.

"It was a good idea, and it was a good use that EDA came up with for the building," Traczyk said. "It would have brought some good paying jobs. The problem was they were undercapitalized."

Haynes said EDA struggled to salvage the project by trying to help TBI qualify for tax credits through People, Inc., a community action agency headquartered in Abingdon. Haynes said the TBI project failed to qualify for assistance under the tax credit program because Warren County was deemed prosperous enough that it fell short of eligibility.

"From the EDA standpoint, it was a disappointment we couldn't pull it together," Haynes said.

Local officials initially said they were hoping to make the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority a focus of their efforts to win financial assistance.


Why has no one raised the salient issue of conflicts of interest here? Admittedly, they involve the usual suspects -- referred to locally as "the good ole boys" (but I wonder, why call them "good"?), but -- so what?

Come on, did no one see that red flag? Does Warren County have no competent attorneys to protect the taxpayers from such fiascoes? And why is the EDA even still in business after pursuing such self-serving disasters? Is everybody just cashing their checks?

Go to the source of who appoints these people to the EDA from both the Town and the County and then follow the money trail. Until you get a different people in elected positions, nothing is going to change. That is the current challenge going on in Front Royal for the May election with a large group trying to displace the current good old boys. Tough job if people do not vote

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