Robbins, Growler Work on Expansion
A town commissioner and a former mayor in Robbins are spurring efforts to help American Growler expand after the company called a halt to one plan.
Growler CEO Terry Crews and CFO Bill Crisp recently notified the town of Candor in Montgomery County that the company was stopping plans to purchase the old Commodore Homes manufacturing plant because the facilty is in a watershed, which places restrictions on land development and usage.
Mayor Theron Bell and other members of the Town Board like an idea proposed by former mayor Mickey Brown.
"I hope with this chain of events that the entire Robbins board would contact them for a meeting to address their needs and hopefully land those expansion plans in the hometown," Brown said in an e-mail to commissioners. "Candor's loss is Robbins' opportunity."
Joey Boswell was in Washington when he heard the news and took advantage of an opportunity to talk about Growler with the state's secretary of commerce.
"Already on it, Mickey!" Boswell responded via his BlackBerry. "Had a good conversation yesterday with Ray and Keith Criscoe in DC in regards to AG expansion."
Bell and other commissioners are looking around the Robbins area to see whether they can offer a feasible alternative to the abandoned Candor plant.
"I spoke to Joey, and we definitely want to work with Growler and help them stay and expand in Robbins," Bell said. "Joey is working with the owners and others. He will let us know how we can help."
According to the explanation American Growler gave, one reason for the company's interest in Candor was the presence of a former mobile home plant and the opportunity of qualifying for state grants for restoring closed plants.
Their process was blocked during a site usage meeting, when a contractor brought a watershed restriction to the company's attention. Uwharrie Builders informed Growler of the potential watershed issue, and Growler was able to confirm the watershed restriction with both the town authorities and the property manager.
In 2007, the company considered Commodore Homes plant as potentially an excellent site for expansion as Growler was beginning to outgrow its facilities in Robbins and Star.
"In anticipation of new and expanded contracts, Growler began a yearlong retooling and retraining initiative in January of this year to develop a website, become ISO 9001 certified and install a machine shop," Growler said in making this announcement. "Growler also began the process of surveying the Candor site and applying for state grants that would allow for rehabilitation of the plant that was originally set up for modular home manufacturing and turn it into a military contracting facility."
The company believed it would have to develop more than 90 percent of the site to meet its growth plan and its commitment - as required by the grant process - of creating 78 new jobs. With the newly discovered watershed restrictions, that would not be possible.
They could only develop 70 percent of the site. According to the surveying company Growler hired, the site as currently plotted already exceeds the watershed threshold, raising further questions of how a new owner will manage the overdevelopment of the -property, the company said.
Growler tried to work with Candor and the property manager to come up with a solution that allows reuse of the facility to continue moving forward, but no solutions were found.
The company says it continues to hold the door open for remedies that will allow its expansion to the Candor site, but it is now looking at other options, including expansion of Growler's facilities in Star and Robbins as well as purchasing property to construct an entirely new facility.
American Growler's rail-side plant on Green Street in Robbins is a busy place. It builds the vehicles used by the U.S. Marine Corps and other American military. At the company's plant in Star, Growler produces a number of products for civilian use.
Boswell and the others hope this will be an opportunity for their town. However, Moore County is at the back of a couple of lines where state and federal support is concerned, Crisp said.
"Moore County is in a lower 'tier' than Montgomery is," he said in a telephone interview. "The Small Business Administration has used county lines as well, though the SBA could alternatively draw up a district along economic lines."
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
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