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Pelzer plant could start redevelopment

Local leaders are hoping a new plant announced last week is just the start of a revitalization of eastern Thomson.

Pelzer Acoustic Products, LLC, will move into the old C-Board building along O'Neal Street in Thomson.

Pelzer Acoustics is a sister company to HP Pelzer, which has called Thomson home since 1997. The new plant will take waste material from the HP Pelzer plant and mold it into air filters for vehicles like the Ford F-150 pickup.

Officials hope work will begin in the building this month and the plant will open in March with 35 or so employees.

"The Thomson Company and those buildings have meant much to our community since the early 30s, and it's just really refreshing to see someone be able to use those buildings to make them productive again," said Industrial Development Authority Chairman Riley Stamey.

Former 33-year Thomson Company employee Vernon Johnson is glad to see that the building where he spent most of his working life will be productive once again.

"Of course obviously I'm delighted that someone is coming in," he said. "(The Thomson Company plant) means the best years of my life."

Local officials think the move is evidence that McDuffie County is industry friendly, a point they hope other companies catch on to.

"This is a good indication that the (Pelzer) company is happy in this community. It thinks well of the employment base here," Mr. Stamey said. "For us here in Thomson and McDuffie County, we've got a lot to look forward to because we've got some positive things happening."

Dean Youngblood, the plant manager of the current H.P. Pelzer facility in Thomson would not comment on the company's move in a phone interview Tuesday.

City and county officials met last week to agree to loan Pelzer officials $400,000 -- $175,000 from a revolving development loan fund administered by the county and $225,000 from a similar account administered by the local development authority.

Also, the city and county will jointly file for an additional $340,000 state loan for the company.

"These people are serious and they are ready to go," said County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton.

Officials hope the new plant will help jump start a renaissance along Railroad Street, Greenway Street and other points east of Main Street and around the old Thomson Company complex.

"This is the seed we want in that area," said Forward McDuffie Executive Director Don Powers. "When we get a factory up and running there, people will look at that area differently."

To that end, local leaders are considering creating a "redevelopment zone" around Thomson Company, Railroad and Greenway streets. They want to focus on cleaning the area up, and plan to apply for a state Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the work.

The work would also tie in with a recent transportation grant the city received to revamp Main Street with new lights, repair sidewalks and renovate pedestrian crossings.

The end result -- officials hope -- is a more attractive town, not only aesthetically, but also to companies that may want to locate here.

Mr. Powers said McDuffie County beat out South Carolina and Augusta for the acoustics plant. He said the deal was sealed because of the local relationship with the HP Pelzer plant.

While the acoustics plant fills one of the old Thomson Company buildings, officials are deciding what to do with the other.

They are working on a plan they'll submit to Georgia's Environmental Protection Division for cleaning up some contamination -- things like oil and gas in some of the soil, along with stacks of carpet remnants -- at the oldest building, but they caution that it's still early in the process. Officials think the contamination isn't all that bad, but want to do a comprehensive study first to make sure.

"If we're looking at a huge problem, we can just say 'No,'" Mr. Newton said.

Staff Writer Kristopher Wells contributed to this story.



Web posted on Thursday, December 16, 2004











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