Grover plant in Lynn under contract with developer

Published 1:37 pm Friday, March 20, 2009

The event had been planned for months as an opportunity &dquo;to engage the business community in the business of doing business in Polk County,&dquo; said Polk County Economic Development Director Kipp McIntyre. Signs were placed in each of the various work rooms of the former yarn dying plant suggesting possible future uses, and video screens in several rooms were showing a presentation of the N.C. Brownfield and Building Re-use Programs available through Isothermal Planning and Development.

In a windowless room McIntyre said the Grover employees used to call &dquo;the rat hole&dquo;, because a rat was once seen there, Macedonian pop music was playing ‐ the &dquo;Balkan Beat Box,&dquo; specifically, for you World Music fans ‐ to add some diversity, said McIntyre.

Swicegood, who was handing out so many cards that he had to return to his car to get more, fairly quickly &dquo;became the center of the galaxy&dquo; in the main room as county commissioners and officials from Isothermal Community College, both the Isothermal and Land of Sky planning and development councils, as well as dozens of local business people gathered round.

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&dquo;He (Carr) has a 90-day contingency (in his purchase contract) to fact find,&dquo; McIntyre said. &dquo;Well, we helped his fact finding go from zero to 60 in two hours Tuesday night. He had all the information sources he needed in one spot. We knocked it out of the park and were able to show him a dynamic local business community.&dquo;

&uot;I met a nice bunch of people down there,&uot; Swicegood said Wednesday. He said he is not sure what he will do with the building yet, and is looking forward to reading all the comment cards, on which After Hours attendees were asked to suggest the uses for the old plant which they feel might best suit the community and the business opportunities here.

&uot;I think I would like to keep it green,&uot; he said. &uot;I&39;d like to see if we can get electricity off that river. I&39;d like to see about jobs, about spaces to create jobs.&uot;

Swicegood said his Asheville offices are nearby the Asheville Arts District and he can envision artists galleries in the Grover plant where visitors can buy art and see the artists at work. He also suggested some of the plant might be used to incubate new businesses, and other parts for storage.

The selling agent, Cindy Viehman of Foothills Realty in Tryon, said she has worked with Swicegood for years. &dquo;I have called him several times on other things that did not work out. This one he recognized as a good opportunity.&dquo;

Swicegood said he was on his way from Asheville to a basketball game in Charlotte last Friday and just stopped by to look at the Grover plant.

&uot;I was really attracted to it,&uot; he said. &uot;It is a great building.&uot;

Swicegood&39;s family owns the Little Pigs Bar-B-Que restaurants in Asheville. Swicegood said he is out of that business today. He now owns convenience stores and said he also likes to buy and speculate on property.

He remodeled an old, 12,000 square foot railroad building in Asheville which recently sold to Habitat for Humanity. He also remodeled an old 40,000-square-foot Bi-Lo shopping center.

The Grover Industries Inc. plant began operation in the late 1800s as a hosiery mill. The plant for the past four or five decades had been operated as a dye plant for coarse count yarns, but business started declining in the new century and Grover finally closed its Lynn plant last October.

Long time plant manager Gary Semmel is still reporting to the office every day.

&dquo;I have tried to fire myself,&dquo; he said Wednesday. &dquo;I could still be here some months yet.&dquo;

Semmel said the dye machines were being taken out this week, and noted that Billie Jordan, director of Tryon Arts & Crafts, was at the mill taking out &dquo;odds and ends&dquo; that could be used to make crafts. The mill is just about cleaned out now, Semmel said.

Semmel said if Swicegood chooses not to follow through on his purchase contract after his 90-day due diligence period, there are a couple potential buyers who have expressed interest.

&dquo;We had one other offer who is interested in making another offer if this falls through,&dquo; Semmel said.