Real estate firm to market three vacant manufacturing plants in northeast Arkansas

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 765 views 

A Warren Buffet-run company has sold off a cluster of northeast Arkansas factory sites to a New York-based joint venture group that is looking to market the former manufacturing plants to outside companies with the potential for new jobs.

The joint venture, which includes New Mill Capital Holdings of New York, Crossland Construction of Columbus, Kan., and Infinity Asset Solutions of Concord, Ontario, recently purchased a seven property portfolio of industrial sites from Chicago-based Marmon Group ≠ including three former plants in far northeast Arkansas run by the company’s L.A. Darling subsidiary.

L.A. Darling was purchased in 2008 by Marmon, a Berkshire Hathaway industrial conglomerate that operates more than 130 manufacturing and service companies across the U.S. Warren Buffet is the Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Terms of the pre-Christmas real estate deal were not disclosed, but officials said the two million square-foot portfolio purchased by the New Mill Capital-led partnership includes manufacturing headquarters in Paragould and Lamar, Mo., which are being leased back to Marmon on a long-term basis.

Other properties included in the sale are L.A. Darling’s now vacant plants in Corning and Piggott, Ark., and three other Marmon industrial plants in Butler, Nev., and Cassville, Mo. Tom Murray, managing director at New Mill Capital said the joint venture group plans to remarket the shuttered facilities to companies that can utilize the infrastructure and central Midwest locations to expand or augment their existing operations.

“We are excited about the opportunity that is presented to us with the acquisition of these properties,” Murray said in a news release. “We will be working closely with Crossland, Infinity, and all local stakeholders in order to try and bring quality jobs back to these properties. These buildings are very flexible and would fit a variety of uses, and all are proximate to transportation networks and a strong labor force. We have a solid team and expect to have a successful outcome.”

Ivan Crossland Jr., owner of Crossland Construction, said he shares Murray’s optimism for the project. He said the out-of-state real estate group has already begun working with the local municipalities in Arkansas and Missouri in order to identify logical users of the manufacturing plants, and putting together “a package of competitive incentives” to grow or bring new jobs at the sites.

“These are well-built plants and we have the right people in place to execute on our plan,” Crossland said. “As we begin marketing these properties, I am confident that prospective tenants will see the value and functionality of these plants.”

L.A. Darling’s headquarters and three manufacturing plants in Paragould, Corning and Piggott have long been major employers and staples of the northeast Arkansas communities in the adjacent Greene and Clay counties. For years, the company has manufactured the familiar metal, wood and wire retail fixtures, bulk display systems, specialized cabinets and other product showcase stands for Walmart Stores Inc., but has struggled to expand its line of products to other major U.S. retailers, drugstores and discounters.

In 2008, a majority share of the Marmon Group was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., after which Buffett was quoted as saying, “Marmon is our kind of company.”  At the time, the company’s manufacturing plants in Corning and Piggott were the largest employers in Clay County, surpassing the local school district and the county hospital.

In 2011, however, Darling announced the first of several layoffs and work stoppages after more than 300 employees received pink slips or were furloughed for an indefinite period. After several years of slow sales, the company announced the closing of both Clay County manufacturing plants in Piggott and Corning in early 2015.

The company still operates a metals manufacturing facility in Paragould, along with sales office in Bentonville and Mexico, according to L.A. Darling General Manager Jackie Elliott. He said the sale of the three facilities by the out-of-state real estate group does not impact the company’s manufacturing operations in Paragould, located on 1401 Highway 49-B in the Greene County city. The company will also continue to maintain its customer support office in Bentonville, he said.

“The manufacturing facility is in excess of 150 employees with less than 10 employees located in the customer support office. All operations in Piggott have been discontinued or relocated to Paragould.  The operations in Corning will discontinue in (the first quarter) of 2016, with the majority of the workforce already impacted,” Elliott added.

Murray, of New Mill Capital, did not respond to messages from Talk Business & Politics seeking comments for this story. However, the New York real estate firm has scheduled an online auction of woodworking equipment and other assets from the L.A. Darling plant in Piggott on Feb. 3, 2016.