Partners who built a Columbia County speculative building that often sat vacant blame a poor economy for their inability to find a permanent tenant until late last summer.
The 50,000-square-foot building at 4955 Wrightsboro Road, near John Deere Parkway, is now occupied by Georgia Iron Works Industries for warehouse space. The other tenant is Cannon Supply Co., which opened in late September.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again in these past three years,” said developer Tony Atkins, a co-owner of the property.
The facility, finished in 2008, coincided with what Atkins called the worst times for the industrial real estate market.
The building was a joint venture through a public-private partnership between local developers and the Development Authority of Columbia County to attract businesses to the Grovetown area. About a quarter of the $1.7 million project was paid for by state grants and federal loans.
The building was designed as a shell to attract an industry or commercial interest that could move in and then make adjustments to the building.
The Development Authority owns only a small portion of the building, which the developers are in the process of acquiring, Atkins said.
While Atkins is still awaiting financial figures from 2012 regarding the building, he said he believes they are “close to the break-even point.”
Atkins said he’s unsure if he and other owners will try to sell the property or continue to lease it out.
Before the building was leased by GIW and Cannon Supply, it had temporary tenants. Atkins said that contractors for John Deere, which is located nearby, would lease the space on a short-term basis to rebuild tractors. The size of the building, he said, seemed to intimidate many potential tenants.
Cannon Supply branch manager Blake Winfrey said the roofing business intends to stay in the Grovetown location for at least five years, having signed a contract with an option to renew.
The company sells roofing products for new construction and roof-repair projects, mostly to builders and lumber dealers, Winfrey said. Cannon Supply operates under the SRS Distribution company, which has about 90 centers in the U.S.
Winfrey said the company chose the facility because it is close to Interstate 20 and “we’re also in a central location with all the building that’s going on here.”
Winfrey said the building also was appealing because it was “build-to-suit.”
Cannon Supply, which has four employees, including Winfrey, is using most of its 25,000-square-foot space for warehousing, with the rest being used for offices.
Though Development Authority Chairman Mark Wills agrees with Atkins that the economic recession hindered the facility’s earlier potential, he said that speculative buildings are positive for communities in that they drum up interest from industries across the country.
Even if they choose another place to locate, they become aware of that community.
“If you don’t have that spec building than you’re not even going go get that first look,” Wills said. “It’s so important to make that list.”
Wills said he’s uncertain about another spec building in Columbia County.
“We’re always going to look at things that would help the community,” he said.