MURRAY — In 2016, when the Murray-Calloway County Economic Development Corporation hatched plans for a state-of-the-art industrial spec building in the Murray-West Industrial Park, its members probably had no idea just how valuable this enterprise could become.
At that time, there was no way to know that, three years later, Murray and Calloway County would be rocked to its core by the news that one of its industrial stalwarts, Briggs & Stratton, would be closing by fall 2020. The idea behind the spec building was adding to the already-strong industrial community established locally, not as a way to perhaps help displaced workers find a soft landing place after having their worlds turned upside down.
However, that is exactly the scenario that is in place, and come Monday, perhaps a big step to cutting the deficit created by the number of jobs lost — 630 — at Briggs & Stratton will be taken. Thursday, EDC President Mark Manning said Monday will be the day of an announcement to reveal the company that will turn the spec building into a fully-functioning industrial plant.
“Look, there’s a whole lot of people who have been working real hard to do something to get the ball rolling in the right direction, and this project that we’re going to announce Monday is a really good step in the right direction,” Manning said, adding that he cannot identify the spec building’s new occupant until the announcement, set for 10 a.m. at the spec building.
“I don’t want to take away from the excitement,” he added.
While Manning would not identify the company, he did say that it is “an established American company that is looking to expand into the Southeast market.” He would not discuss the number of jobs this company will have available.
“This company actually called us directly after they saw the announcement about Briggs and the reason they called is, they said, that they had been looking for a location and when they saw this, they realized there was a really good pool available of skilled labor that could go to work quickly and efficiently,” Manning said of the company, who he said committed to filling the spec building sometime last week.
“We called them back a couple of times, then they came down here a couple of a times and it’s a really great fit to the point that not only was the labor pool a big factor in it, but they sent people down here who went to the school systems and so forth and have now fallen in love with the community.
“I think they are very pleased about housing prices here as opposed to where they are, and we think the growth potential for this is pretty high.”
The occupation of the spec building now means two plants will be established at Murray West. Already under construction several hundred yards away is the DAE-IL automotive parts manufacturing plant. That facility started receiving its equipment last week, Manning said, and is expected to begin operations sometime in the first half of 2020.
This is the first American facility for DAE-IL, a company based in South Korea. Ironically, the July 2018 celebration in which DAE-IL founder Johnny Kim officially announced that the company was establishing a plant in Murray was hosted inside the spec building.
“It has served its purpose beautifully,” Manning said of the spec building. “One thing I’d like to emphasize is that when we built the spec building, we weren’t trying to sell it in one or two months. We wanted it to be out there as a marketing tool for several years and that is exactly what has happened.
“And there is a group of individuals we’ll recognize on Monday that have contributed money so that we’ll be able to carry interest on the property while we’re marketing it, and those people are really special. They did it because they love this community.”
Manning said the next step will be completing the preparation of the spec building to receive its new occupant.
“We want to get it done as quickly as we can, so we can get some people to work,” he said, adding that he believes a minimum of six months will be needed, perhaps longer, to accomplish that task.