ConMet employs more than 700 people at two factories in neighboring Haywood and Swain counties.
“Their business right now is just going great-guns,” County Manager Chuck Wooten told county commissioners during a recent board meeting. “It really is a good employer and somebody we’d like to have in Jackson County.”
ConMet just last year undertook a $5.9 million expansion of its Canton factory.
While ConMet is only eyeing the Tuck Mills site for a warehouse — with around 25 jobs — the move is a homecoming of sorts for ConMet. The company was based in Cashiers, but pulled out about 10 years ago, shifting operations to Haywood and Swain instead.
Wooten announced at this week’s commissioners meeting that ConMet wants a three-year lease on the Tuckaseigee Mills building, a long-ago sewing factory that the county inherited when it took over the Economic Development Commission.
“They have looked at this building probably four or five times,” Wooten said, adding that discussions had been in progress for a couple of months.
Wooten shared the terms of the deal: the 66,000-square-foot facility would be rented for $48,000 annually and ConMet would also be required to invest $350,000 in repairs and upgrades.
“They would like to get to work remodeling the site immediately,” Wooten said.
The county manager explained that the company also wanted an 18-month “escape” clause that would allow it to exit the lease in a year-and-a-half. Wooten panned that prospect, telling commissioners such a clause shouldn’t be seen as a drawback.
“They will have made the $350,000 investment,” he said, “so, I think it’s a win-win.”
Commissioners approved the terms of the proposed contract unanimously.
The county has been trying to market the former factory site for economic development purposes since acquiring it. A third of the building houses Lucky’s Tomatoes, which will remain at the site. The portion being occupied by ConMet was most recently home to QC Apparel and Stanton Woodworking, but has been empty for more than two years.
“It does create these jobs, it does create a revenue stream and it does take that building up to current standards,” Wooten said.
Tuckaseigee Mills site requires remediation
Prior to ConMet — or any other entity — occupying the Tuckaseigee Mills building, the facility needed some work.
“Every time we took someone into that facility, the first question we got about that vinyl floor tile is, ‘Does that have asbestos?’” said Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten.
Recently, the county tested the flooring and found that it does contain asbestos.
“I don’t think it’s uncommon to find buildings of this age that have this type of material in it,” Wooten said.
County commissioners decided to have the facility remediated so that it could be leased. The job will cost nearly $70,000.
“It’s about a two-week job,” Wooten said.
The county manager said that the county was looking to remedy the asbestos situation at the Tuckaseigee Mills building before being approached by ConMet about leasing the site. The company did, however, have the same question about floor tiles as everyone else.
“They’re another one that asked the question,” Wooten said.