Company Brings 150 Jobs to Area
There are lights on in the old Candor Hosiery Mill.
About 20 new workers are busy there doing work that otherwise might have been shipped off to India or other offshore locations.
They are employees of Situs Cos., a Houston firm that provides commercial real estate and consulting services to financial institutions, institutional investors, investment banks, real estate investment trusts, private owners and developers all over the world.
It will employ as many as 150 people over the next three years in an area that has been hit hard by job losses and plant closings in recent years.
Renovations are breathing new life into the old textile plant on N.C. 24-27 in Robbins. There are cars in its formerly deserted parking lot these days. It is now an operations center for Situs, which competes directly with other companies that shipped such jobs out of the country.
Situs Managing Director Steven Bean, who is based in the company's New York City office, had managed similar outsourced operations offshore.
He came to think that bringing these jobs to a rural location in the United States instead would be successful. At his suggestion, Situs Cos. started looking at Robbins as a potential location last June.
Bean said he thought of Robbins because he grew up there. He graduated from North Moore High School.
"Robbins is a great rural community that -- unfortunately -- has been hard-hit by manufacturing job losses," Bean said. "I am glad that my role at Situs contributed to the company's decision to move forward with our project here. Our hope is certainly that the quality, service-based jobs we are creating will significantly contribute to the town's economic revitalization."
The company has hired some 20 people as financial analysts. They are learning the basics of commercial real estate financial service delivery.
Situs plans to grow significantly within its first three years of operation in Robbins. The new jobs will have annual salaries ranging from $20,000 to $60,000, according to a release from Moore County Partners in Progress, the county's economic development organization.
"I couldn't be more pleased with Situs' decision to locate in Robbins," said Ray Ogden, executive director of Partners in Progress. "This is a win-win situation. For Situs, there is a community that will embrace them, and a good workforce is readily available there and in the surrounding area.
"For Robbins, this business represents a major milestone as they recover from the loss of most of their traditional manufacturing and agricultural base. Situs is exactly the kind of business to carry Robbins forward into the new global economy."
Robbins Mayor Laura Ann Brady commented on a number of important events impacting the town over the past year.
"It's truly amazing all that has come together for Robbins," Brady said. "Back in January 2006, we were faced with the closings of both Klaussner Furniture and Candor Hosiery and the loss of some 200 jobs. Since then, Robbins was chosen to participate in the Rural Center's STEP program (Small Towns Economic Prosperity initiative).
"American Growler relocated here from Florida, and now we have Situs bringing new life to another empty building and new jobs to the community."
Last October, in an effort to assist Situs financially with offsetting costs of renovating the Candor Hosiery building, Rob-bins applied for grant funds through the North Carolina Rural Center's Building Reuse and Restoration Grants Program. That program provides grants to local governments for renovating buildings that have been vacant for six months or longer.
In December, Robbins learned that it had been awarded $150,000. As a requirement of the grant program, the town itself also set aside an allocation as an investment in the project.
Situs was also recently awarded more than $200,000 in support funds through the North Carolina New and Expanding Industry Training (NEIT) program. Sandhills Community College (SCC) manages the program locally and is assisting Situs with creating customized training.
"Situs is a most deserving recipient of these training funds," said Alan Duncan, senior director of the Dedman Center for Business Leadership at SCC. "Given the number of new jobs and the level of capital investment the company will create, the local impact will be tremendous. The college is pleased to play a part in this important project, and we are looking forward to assisting Situs with its training needs."
In addition to those awards, the company was also awarded $80,000 in training funds under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) -- a federal workforce development program locally administered through the Workforce Development Board and the Moore County JobLink Career Center/Employment Se-curity Commission (ESC).
John Wittenstrom, manager of the ESC office in Aberdeen, also expressed excitement at JobLink's involvement in the project.
"These funds will help Situs offset the costs of training workers on-the-job, which opens up great employment opportunities for people who want to work but may not already have the amount of experience and skills needed," Wittenstrom said.
The building has been vacant since December 2005. Bean said that, although it is in good condition for its age, the interior had to be converted from a manufacturing arrangement to office space to accommodate Situs' needs.
"We've completed some overall cleaning, general repair and painting, as well as removed walls to create a large training room," Bean said. "Construction and installation of new telecommunications wiring and computer cabling is still needed for our second-phase operations."
The outpouring of local support and enthusiasm was not lost on Bean and the company.
"We greatly appreciate the support from Robbins, Sandhills Community College, Moore County JobLink and Partners in Progress," Bean said. "We believe Americans can do this type of work better and more efficiently than offshore locations. Situs is not only pleased to be able to create these jobs in the U.S., but -- thanks to local assistance-- to bring these jobs to Robbins."
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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