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Raleigh High-Tech Firm Eyes Daystrom Plant

A Raleigh based high-tech firm is looking to locate 199 jobs over a five-year period, and the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) is working feverishly to locate it in the former Daystrom Furniture building located on Greens Folly Road, according to IDA Executive Director Mike Sexton.

The Virginia Tobacco Commission approved Tuesday a $5 million grant request from the county IDA that could lure the company from Research Triangle Park in Raleigh to the 34-acre county site bringing with it new jobs that would offer employees a starting salary of $41,000 in the first 30 months and a weighted salary of about $51,000 after 60 months, according to IDA officials.

The prospective firm could invest $23 to $25 million in this area if the IDA does everything it has promised in a timely fashion, according to IDA officials.
The IDA has two months to firm up public and private financing commitments to lure the company, officials explained.

When the board met in Richmond Tuesday, they placed certain conditions and contingencies on the $5 million award, Tobacco Commission Deputy Director Ned Stephenson said.

“These conditions seem to be well understood and well on their way to being met by the applicant,” he added.

According to Tobacco Commission Grants Project Director Tim Phohl, the $5 million grant award will be used to fund the up-fit for 20,000-square-feet in the vacant Daystrom building with the possible future expansion of an additional 100,000 square feet that would be leased by the economic development prospect.

Phohl declined to identify the Raleigh-based prospect saying only that the award was granted for “Project Wave.”

“Because it is an economic development prospect, we’re still operating with the project name ‘Project Wave,’” he added.

The $5 million tobacco commission grant for “Project Wave” is contingent on the county’s successful recruitment of the high-tech firm.

Four buildings at the Daystrom site contain 438,000 square feet, and Phohl said the IDA is working to attract other companies as tenants to the building, describing them as “active economic development prospects at this point.” But he added, “I am not aware of any specifics.”

Phohl explained the tobacco commission grant requires a dollar for dollar match from the county which can tap such potential sources as the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, over $1.6 million from the IDA’s machinery and tool’s investment grant program, and a federally guaranteed loan of $17.7 million from the USDA Office of Rural Development.

IDA officials also have said they plan to recover matching funds through a binding lease agreement with the prospect.

Virginia and three other states are competing for the Raleigh based semiconductor firm.

The IDA director said the IDA is “doing the final stages of due diligence to make sure we have a good property” and are in Phase II with an engineering firm to find out how much contaminants are in the soil at the Daystrom plant.

“The borings have been done at the hot spots,” he added.

Sexton noted an original old Phase I had passed DEQ inspection for a manufacturing company to locate at the site; however, that did not release the IDA from liabilities.

“We hired a new firm to do more analysis, and Phase I came back very good. Now Phase II is drilling into the most hot spots – the worst potential spots on the property – and they’re testing those right now.

“Depending upon the level of any issues they might find. We need to make sure there are no contaminants (acids) leaking outside the property,” Sexton explained.

“We’re not planning on drinking the water at the facility, and we’re not planning on putting a daycare center there, but we can go in and manufacture.”

He further stated the IDA plans to “go in and claim the property at the level we need to at the best it can ever be. We’ve got to bring this to a level of confidence where there’s nothing on this property that we can be sued over by a contiguous property.

“If we can determine the level of toxicity is normal or as close to tolerable as we can, then we’re going to close on the deal and ask the board of supervisors to allow us to purchase the property,” he continued.

In the next two weeks after the environmental reports are returned, Sexton said then it will be taken to the board to move ahead.

“Our price has been agreed on,” he said.

The building is “rock-solid” but stands in need of a new roof on sections that will be part of the up-fit to make it suitable for reasonable use.
Cost of repairing the roof will be “rolled into the lease,” he added.

“There’s a lot to be done, but it is a very good building in a good location,” Sexton said. “We’re excited about it. We need inexpensive manufacturing space for some of these companies to get started up in. This gives us many, many good reasons to pursue it.”

The IDA has made an offer on this building to “lock it down,” Sexton said. “If the board of supervisors doesn’t like the outcome of the Phase II, then we’re out of business.

“We’re reclaiming this property that has great potential, but it also has a history. If we don’t determine that we can go in there and be secure of liability, we probably won’t go in there, so it’s not a foregone conclusion,” Sexton said. “We think it will. We think it’s going to be great because it’s going to reclaim a piece of property to do exactly what it was meant to do. It’s a great opportunity,” he said of the multi-tenant advance manufacturing facility he hopes is destined for the former Daystrom building.

Sexton confirmed the IDA has four potential tenants lined- up to go into the Daystrom building.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to get these things signed up,” he said, adding the county is getting “good support” from the tobacco commission on these projects.

“These are big hits, and the Daystrom building is right in the middle of it,” he concluded.