A local warehouse company has leased the former Mattel Inc. toy factory in south Augusta, taking the last marketable industrial property from Richmond County economic developers.
The 298,000-square-foot building, which had been the only speculative building in the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce's arsenal, is being used as a distribution center by Richmond Bonded Warehouse Logistics Inc.
Local industry recruiters had hoped to create new jobs at the facility by attracting a manufacturer. But several weeks ago, the building's owner and developer, Atlanta-based Robert Pattillo Properties Inc., agreed to a five-year lease with Richmond Bonded Warehouse.
Richmond County economic developers acknowledge the county has lost at least two prospects since the warehouse company first took a sublease on the property in June.
"We had people looking at (the building) who then had to look at other locations," said Kevin Shea, the chamber's senior vice president of economic development.
One prospect, whom he declined to name, now is eyeing Burke County, where there are several vacant industrial properties. Both prospects would have created dozens of new jobs.
"We need another (speculative) building out there," Mr. Shea said, referring to the Forward Augusta Industrial Park near the intersection of Tobacco Road and Mike Padgett Highway, the location of the former Mattel building.
So far, the only available industrial property being marketed by Augusta-area economic developers is Columbia County's 128,000-square-foot speculative building in the Horizon South Industrial Park. The building has been on the market for two years.
Speculative buildings, so called because they are built on the speculation a company will occupy them, are used by communities to attract new employers who want a prefabricated building that can be customized quickly to fit their operations.
Last year, Mattel pulled out of its south Augusta building halfway through a 10-year lease when demand fell for plastic outdoor toys it had produced there. The factory had employed as many as 100 people at its peak.
Although local officials want developers to construct more speculative industrial buildings in Augusta, its contracted developer, Robert Pattillo Properties, is focusing attention toward metro Atlanta.
That's a mistake, according to Martin Pinover, an industrial property consultant for commercial brokerage Julien J. Studley Inc., the firm that handled the Richmond Bonded Warehouse deal.
"Augusta has a lot going for it," said Mr. Pinover, who is conducting a market survey for Augusta. "Augusta is a viable industrial market. If you look at the marketplace, there's no space available."
If the major commercial and industrial developers continue to ignore Augusta, it should consider developing its own speculative buildings, he said.
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.