- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
Which IRG is already busy doing. After all, it’s why they bought the property.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for this area,” said Kasey Floyd, a long-time Sara Lee employee who will serve as facility manager. “You don’t want to see a big space like this go to waste.”
IRG, based in Downey, Calif., certainly has no plans to let that happen. The first goal is to find a single tenant to continue the plant’s use as a bakery. The company has signed a brokerage agreement with CBRE in Dallas to help market the facility.
Even if a tenant showed up tomorrow to use half the building, Special Projects Vice President Thomas C. Messmer said IRG probably wouldn’t approve it just to give the first plan time to work.
At the same time, plans are being made to market for other uses just in case it becomes necessary. Sara Lee tried to market the building as an operating bakery for some time without any luck. Rather than it being the perfect location for one company, it may be the perfect location for several.
“We may find a truck shop. We may find someone for the credit union property, someone who wants the open area on the rail for a small building and three tenants in the big building. That would be a home run for us,” Messmer said.
“We’d love to lease 89 acres and an operating bakery, but we’re much more flexible and creative than that.”
Sara Lee’s main building could easily hold three businesses, Messmer said. It has access from several different areas, not to mention good warehouse and commercial freezer space – something IRG has had success in marketing elsewhere.
“Given the infrastructure, the building could be light manufacturing for just about anything,” he said.
It’s not just the building, either. The property includes a small office building in the old credit union and about 45 usable acres where a smaller building could be constructed next to the rail spur.
That rail line is a major attraction in its own right. A lot of economic development projects need rail service, Paris Economic Development Corp. Director Steve Gilbert said.
Either way, it’s hard to say how long it might be before there’s news about someone moving in.
Messmer mentioned IRG’s “creativity” several times. Many developers would simply focus on a place like Sara Lee as a whole. IRG has a different focus.
“We are an adaptive reuse developer,” Messmer said. “”That is the ultimate green: Reusing the facility, not using the rubble when you knock it down.”
He pointed to an old General Motors plant IRG bought in Decatur, Ill. When it closed down, 800 people were out of work. IRG attracted three different businesses – metal fabrication, injection molding and distribution. No one of the companies could use such a large space, but but all three could. Which returned several hundred jobs to the area.
IRG’s list of properties includes more than 50 million square feet in 70 sites across the country. Some of its more unique projects include:
“This is a great property,” Messmer said. “The Sara Lee plant is in absolutely great shape.”
A company usually knows it’s going to shut down a facility well in advance and lets maintenance slide. Messmer said most need a new roof and a good cleaning at the very least. Not so with Sara Lee. Gilbert said he’s seen closed office buildings that look as if everyone just got up and left, but the Sara Lee plant is well maintained. Danny Moss has been responsible for taking care of the plant while a buyer was sought.
“It was all clean and tidy,” Gilbert said. “You could bring your equipment and move in.”
Having IRG in charge of the facility presents a unique relationship for PEDC, Gilbert said. The company is the owner and can adapt the facility for whatever needs potential tenants may have, while PEDC can offer incentives and help in training the work force.
“They have tenant relationships and corporate relationships we would kill to have,” Gilbert said. “They’re in this business every day. This is their sweet spot.”
For Sara Lee, the empty property was likely a piece of real estate that was mostly “out of sight, out of mind,” Gilbert said. IRG, on the other hand, has “a sense of urgency” about it.
“We want the same thing,” Gilbert said. “They want a tenant. We want jobs for our community.”
IRG works with the local community when it buys such properties. The deal was financed through local banks, spearheaded by Philip Cecil at Liberty National Bank. When renovations are needed, they’ll hire local contractors wherever possible.
Closing on the deal was expected to happen by Friday. Floyd starts full-time Monday. He will work for 2020 Paris LLC, a a joint subsidiary of New Mill Capital and IRG, which is New Mill’s parent company. He was an ideal candidate because he worked 16 years there as maintenance supervisor and is very familiar with the plant. He went to work at Campbell Soup as a production supervisor after Sara Lee shut down.
Paris is “not an exit off the interstate,” Messmer said, and it could be a challenge to bring some companies here. But given the condition of the building, if someone wants to be in this region, it would make a definite attraction.
“We’ll do just about anything to put a tenant into a building,” he said. “There’s almost always a way.”