Four days after the Warren County-Front Royal Economic Development Authority announced it would purchase two properties for $8.3 million in the interest of economic development, it confirmed Tuesday that it is in talks with two companies to become tenants.
“These are the things the state partnership (the Virginia Economic Development Council) applauds in economic development,” said Greg Drescher, chairman of the EDA. “The EDA is trying to be proactive in making sure we have an inventory of readily available sites and buildings for future prospects looking at Warren County.”
The two properties the EDA voted to purchase Friday are located in the Stephens Industrial Park and the Happy Creek Technology Park.
The former, a 14-acre property located at 426 Baugh Drive, is home to Atlantic Exhibits, which has 40 employees. Atlantic Exhibits will remain on-site until January 2019 when its lease expires, freeing up the space for another company.
The EDA saw this not as a loss of 40 paying jobs, but as a golden opportunity.
Jennifer McDonald, executive director of the EDA, said the county and the EDA have been searching for an industrial building suitable for manufacturing for five years from now, and saw this location as a perfect fit.
The Virginia Economic Development Council agreed. According to an EDA news release, the VEDC stated that the Baugh Drive location’s access to natural gas and the railroad makes the spot ideal for a future manufacturer.
“The acquisition of the Atlantic Exhibits property ensures that the EDA will be able to recruit a manufacturing tenet to replace the jobs lost at the facility,” said county administrator Doug Stanley. “Too often when these facilities turn over they end up as warehouse space, resulting in a loss of jobs and tax base for the community.
“With the expansion capability of the facility, I am confident that the EDA will ultimately be able to bring in a manufacturing tenet that will provide higher paying jobs and additional investment to bolster our local tax base.”
The EDA announced Friday that it is in talks with a manufacturing company to fill the space when Atlantic Exhibits’ lease expires.
The other location, in the Happy Creek Technology Park, is slated to be purchased from Ranson 5, LLC, a West Virginia-based company for $3 million. The EDA said it is now working with another company on a lease/purchase agreement for the site.
Bruce Drummond, vice-chairman of the EDA, said, “This is identical to the deal we made with Schnable Industries for the building on Strasburg Road.”
In that instance, the EDA bought the building at 5210 Strasburg Road and leased it to Schnable Industries until the company had time to sell its previous building and buy the property for itself.
The same idea applies for the EDA’s two recent purchases. The EDA will retain ownership of both properties until the incoming companies are able to make a purchase offer.
The new tenants will also be required to pay the real estate taxes on the properties in the meantime.
“This is something the EDA has done for 25 years. It’s not something new that we have just started doing,” McDonald said. “We are here to help facilitate these business deals, and we have been given the direction by the state and by the locality and we will continue to do our job as directed.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article used the word “tenet” instead of “tenant” to describe the two companies in talks with the EDA.