Unused Mitsubishi plant at Chaffee Crossing is listed for sale

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 169 views 

The new, modern and unused 200,000-square-foot Mitsubishi manufacturing facility at Chaffee Crossing that once promised to be home to 400 good-paying jobs has officially been put on the sale block.

Rodger Brown, who represents Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas, said the property will be listed for sale even though the company is still looking for the “right use” for a Mitsubishi product.

“We are continuing to explore all possibilities to bring jobs to Fort Smith and Arkansas. This has included looking for the right use of this quality facility within the Mitsubishi family of companies,” Brown said in a statement issued Wednesday (Jan. 28). “While we continue to seek the right use of the plant within Mitsubishi, we have listed this property for sale in the event another company is interested in purchasing this plant and creating jobs in Fort Smith.”

Mitsubishi nor officials with the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce would discuss a sales price or a price range.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries announced Oct. 16, 2009, plans to build the $100 million, 200,000-square foot wind-turbine manufacturing plant on 90 acres at Fort Chaffee. The plant was expected to employ up to 400 once fully operational, and Mitsubishi officials initially said full production of nacelles for the 2.4MW wind turbine and the 400 jobs could be in place within the first quarter of 2012.

The city of Fort Smith and the Fort Smith chamber in 2010 bet almost $1.8 million in incentives and infrastructure support that Mitsubishi would open and operate a wind-turbine assembly plant at Chaffee Crossing. While a safe bet at the time when the U.S. wind energy market was on the upswing, few now are willing to bet Mitsubishi will operate the facility that has been mothballed since April 2012.

In December 2009 it was learned that legal and trade disputes between Mitsubishi and GE would delay the opening of the Chaffee Crossing plant. The GE legal dispute, concerns about the long-term availability of a federal tax credit and a slowing economy caused the company to idle the plant before a screw was turned on the assembly floor. The legal dispute was eventually resolved, but the lack of federal production credits and other market factors curtailed production across the industry sector.

Ivy Owen, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, said in January 2014 that Mitsubishi had several offers to sell or lease the building but refused. To Owen, that was a sign Mitsubishi officials were interested in using the building.

Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the interested parties will work through the chamber. Allen, who before coming to Fort Smith, spent 11 years with the  Arkansas Economic Development Commission as a project manager and 17 years with CenterPoint Energy in a variety of sales and marketing roles. Allen said his job is to collect and “filter” the proposals.

“We will look at those and see if they need to be sent to the real estate company that is handling this for them (Mitsubishi),” Allen said Wednesday.

He declined to name the real estate company but said it is a prominent firm with a “solid reputation” in economic development circles.

Any manufacturing jobs at the plant would be welcome in the regional economy.

The Fort Smith area manufacturing sector employed an estimated 17,800 in November, unchanged compared to October, and below the 18,400 in November 2013. Sector employment is down more than 37% from a decade ago when November 2004 manufacturing employment in the metro area stood at 28,600. Annual average monthly employment in manufacturing has fallen from 28,900 in 2005, 19,200 in 2012, and to 18,300 in 2013.