An important piece of Thomson's history is on the mend.
Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers recently acquired this old aerial photograph of the Thomson Company property taken when the plant was in its prime.
On Tuesday, the City of Thomson and McDuffie County signed over the deed for the old Thomson Company property to the joint Industrial Development Authority who will work to revamp and market it.
"This is a great step because it gives us the beginning for getting the Thomson Company property revitalized and made a part of our economic base," Thomson Mayor Bob Knox said after the signing.
The project is one that could have a serious impact on the town. Officials still aren't quite sure what all of the buildings will be used for, but they are excited about the possibilities for the site.
There is 145,000 square feet of building space on the more than 13 acre property. Half of that building space is described by Forward McDuffie Director Don Powers as "fairly modern," meaning it was built between the 1960s and the 1990s.
The Thomson Company was "an economic engine" for many years in the area, Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders said. Its revitalization is being applauded by former employees who hated to see the old factory in disrepair.
McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton over the deed to the Thomson Company property as Development Authority Chairman Riley Stamey (left) and Thomson Mayor Bob Knox look on.
Photo by Staff
"A substantial number of people in this community, in several different economic walks of life, had their first job at the Thomson Company," Mr. Flanders said. "So there's a lot of fond memories associated with those buildings."
For Margaret Thompson who worked there 43 years and helps organize a reunion of former employees, the news of work being done on the site was promising.
"It's in pretty good shape, I mean it was. Now I haven't seen it in a long long time," she said. "...I really think that it could be used. I'd hate to see it torn down because that's really what Thomson was built on."
The work to the buildings where Mrs. Thompson spent her working days will make several available for use.
"Our intent is to use those buildings for light industrial use," Mr. Powers said. "...The other half of the buildings is the historical part. We're still a little bit unsure about the best use for that building."
One sure thing is that a lot is happening on the property right now and more is scheduled to take place. The outside of the property has already been cleaned up a bit and the soil will soon be tested and remediated if need be.
A partnership with the Environmental Protection Division will provide a liability shield that can be transferred to any future owners of the property.
Also in the works is the removal and recycling of an estimated 2,700 tons of carpet on the site.
And the buildings on the grounds have been analyzed by Two State Construction who suggested some light structural work and roof repair.
Mr. Powers said the work will have to be done carefully so as to tie together the old and new buildings in a cohesive appearance. The historical buildings along with the history of the Thomson Company and what it meant to the area will be researched by the non-profit organization Camellia Partners.
"There are a lot of old buildings with an awful lot of character to them," Mr. Flanders said. "If you go into the old Thomson Company section itself, you have construction that goes back to the 1900s with hand-hewn timbers and a saw-tooth construction back there that just lets an incredible amount of light in."
All of the work to stabilize the buildings will be supervised by the Development Authority and will be funded by a $500,000 redevelopment grant and matched by local sales tax money. The newer sections will be speculative buildings to try and attract industry, a different approach from the norm of building newer facilities.
"It's a very, very inexpensive way to put some industrial space back into use, and that by definition is a speculative building," Mr. Powers said. "...We have a good feel that somebody's going to want the building, and we've had a couple of initial inquiries on a small portion of the space already."
Mr. Flanders said the importance of having a speculative building is enormous.
"You can't fish without bait," he said. "...There's more than one community that has an industry in their midst today because the first visit paid to that community was to look at the spec building that was in place."