By Dennis Seid
SHANNON – Two years ago, the Community Development Foundation took a chance and spent $1.5 million on a spec building – basically an empty space with four walls, which could be adapted for later use as a tenant sees fit.
But industrial parks across the country are littered with spec buildings that sit empty.
However, the 75,000-square-foot facility in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South isn’t just another spec building.
And it didn’t stay on the market for long.
German automotive supplier Grammer AG announced Wednesday it was moving its U.S. manufacturing operations to the facility.
“Construction of the building was approved by our board in 2012 and finished in June 2013, so it was really on the market for less than a year,” said CDF President and CEO David Rumbarger.
“Buildings with 30-foot eave heights and 50-foot centers with concrete construction are fairly rare, especially new. There are only a handful between Texas and Virginia to compete with, so that’s what we wanted to do when we built the building.”
Grammer looked at the building in January of last year, before it was even completed, and committed to the site in the fall. Details had to be worked out, and the deal wasn’t finalized until recently.
On Wednesday, Grammer said it could employ up to 650 workers in five years at the facility.
Grammer looked at several sites, but ultimately decided on the Lee County site in Shannon.
“Timing-wise it fits perfectly with our growth strategy,” said Ralf Hoppe, Grammer vice president of investor relations, marketing and communication. “We have a couple of automotive projects in the next 15-18 months and we wanted to start production at the end of the year, so having this building available was a big factor (in choosing the site.)”
Rumbarger said it was a “last resort” for the CDF to build the facility. Other private investors were investing in their own expansions or other projects. But the CDF board was convinced it needed to have a building ready for whoever might be looking.
“We built it and they found it,” he said. “We would not have competed for this project if we did not have this building available. They cut other communities and they cut other sites in Lee County that weren’t this complete. They wanted a quick start, a quick turnaround, they wanted something they could see.”
Chauncey Godwin, chairman of the CDF board, said the facility was needed because other available buildings “didn’t fit the needs of some companies. … who need certain specs on buildings. We took that step forward to build the building.”
“There’s a strong possibility we might do this again,” Godwin added. “We actually had other people looking at this building until Grammer finally settled on it.”