MERIDIAN — Efforts to market an empty distribution facility are continuing following the December departure of a major employer in Lauderdale County.
Handy Hardware shut down its Meridian center just two years after opening, resulting in the loss of 109 jobs and leaving its 463,000 square foot distribution center empty. The center had opened in November of 2010.
The building sits on a 40-acre site that is owned by the county.
Handy Hardware, based in Houston, Texas, is a hardware distribution cooperative owned by member stores. The company built the warehouse in Meridian in a failed bid to expand eastward, and the debt burden was one contributor to its bankruptcy. Capital One Financial Corp. says Handy owes $26 million on the warehouse and associated equipment.
Because Handy defaulted on the loan, Capital One will soon own the building and is already working on trying to find a buyer, according to Hank Florey, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors.
Florey said he and other county officials, along with a representative of Capital One, two real estate brokers, and Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, toured the building this past week.
“We’re hoping, of course that they will sell to someone who will create jobs out there,” Florey said. “That’s what we need. That’s exactly what we want. It’s a gorgeous building.”
Jones said the brief meeting was to determine the plans for the disposition of the building once the ownership has transferred to the bank. Real estate brokers interested in listing the building were also in attendance.
Jones said Capital One will aggressively pursue the sale of the building through a nationally recognized real estate company.
“The EMBDC will work hand in hand with the bank and its real estate broker to market the building,” Jones said. “This association will greatly enhance our ability to reach prospective buyers nationwide.”
Jones cited several attributes to the building and its location in Meridian. Handy Hardware constructed a state of the art distribution center strategically located to serve customers throughout the southeastern United States. Product racking and conveyer systems remain in place in the building as well as electrically charged forklifts. Property is available to expand the building to the south and to the east of the existing structure.
“Meridian is located at the strategic center of the South, offering wholesalers and retailers an ideal location to reach their customers,” Jones said. “This was validated recently by Chicago Consulting, a nationally recognized supply chain consulting firm. The 10 Best Warehouse Networks 2013 report lists Meridian as the best location in the southeast for companies requiring a network of four warehouses to serve their customers.”
Jones said Meridian was identified along with Lansdale, Pa.; Chicago; and Portersville, Calif. The study focuses on the lowest possible time to market.
The EMBDC utilizes concentric circles on a regional map to illustrate Meridian’s proximity to the southeast and the region’s major population centers.
“Meridian is located within 300 miles of Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Mobile, Montgomery, Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, and Memphis,” Jones said.
“Workforce is always a major consideration for companies searching for a new location” said Jones. “It was unfortunate to experience the loss of jobs associated with Handy. However, the availability of the former employees, their skills and work ethic, will be very attractive to a prospective buyer.”