If it works … more spec buildings on the way

Published 9:17 am Thursday, May 5, 2022

By Jeanna Baxter White

Word Master Media Group

After gaining six new industrial partners last year, Davie County is focusing on the next wave of development by replenishing its inventory of buildings.   

Four additional industrial spec facilities, ranging from 130,000 to 500,000 square feet (SF), are in the planning stages or under construction to replace those filled by Hayward Holdings, Sportsfield Specialties, DFA, Scott Bader, and Palltronics.

Attracting these companies is the result of having available shell buildings with quick access to I-40, said Terry Bralley, president of the Davie County Economic Development Commission.

“April 2022 is a time to celebrate our existing partners and welcome new ones into our industrial spec building arena,” said Bralley.

While some communities have taken public funds to compete with developers, Davie has taken the opposite approach, supporting private sector efforts and partnering with private developers rather than competing. The private developer assumes the financial risk, and the community has been able to support the effort by investing in infrastructure, he said.

Finding a developer willing to gamble on a rural community was a challenge, but Bralley found such a partner in Tennessee-based Hollingsworth Companies, which owns industrial parks in four states.

Since 1998, the SouthPoint Business Park, just north of I-40 on US 601 in Mocksville, has been the example. SouthPoint has brought thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investment to Mocksville and Davie County, Bralley said.

Occupants include Comfort-Bilt, Concordance Healthcare Solutions, Dunlop Aircraft Tyres,  EntreMatic, Gesipa, Metal Sales, Morrisofa Global, and new tenants, Scott Bader and Palltronics.

The park consists of eight buildings from 72,480 to 253,180 SF and will soon have two more under construction.

“For decades, The Hollingsworth Companies has supplied our community with spec building opportunities, giving us an extremely competitive edge over most communities. This year they will deliver two new buildings on pre-graded sites, allowing quicker construction and occupancy,” Bralley said.

The company uses a virtually complete building prototype or a pre-permitted, pre-graded pad-ready site to deliver a finished building to a new client in about six months. It anticipates that the 130,000 SF and 150,000 SF spec spaces will be available during the 1st quarter of 2023.    

“The Hollingsworth Companies could not have asked for better business partners than Davie County and the Davie County Economic Development Commission,” said senior vice president of Industrial Real Estate, Tom Mann. “Our success would not have been possible without the support of such a professional organization to assist us in the development and growth of SouthPoint Business Park. By working together with Davie County, the park has continued to expand over its 20+ year history.”

Second Partner

A second partner was found closer to home. In 2019, Bill Junker, owner of Trailers of the East Coast, partnered with John Reece of Commercial Realty Advisors, Buddy Seymour, the president-manager of Windsor Commercial, and Louis DeJoy, president of  LDJ Global Strategies, to establish the Davie Industrial Center. Located just off I-40 at Interstate and Gildan drives, the center opened the ability to attract larger clients. It leased a 324,000 SF space to Hayward Holdings in 2021.

Once all three phases are completed, the three-building industrial complex will total more than 1,000,000 SF of manufacturing/warehouse space on more than 77 acres. Phase II is now under construction with more than 500,000 SF ready for occupancy in the 1st quarter of 2023. Phase III is a build-to-suit opportunity, available 10 months from lease execution.

The building, made of tilt-up concrete, features 36-foot ceilings instead of the standard 32 as the US market prepares to stock more inventory. “The COVID pandemic revealed weaknesses in the inventory supply chain,” said Bralley, “The higher ceiling will allow the future tenant to expand its inventory racking systems to better prepare for future supply chain disruptions.”   

Erecting a spec building of this magnitude is a gamble, but it’s one Junker was comfortable making because of his confidence in Bralley and Davie economic development.

“Terry (Bralley) had the vision and foresight many years ago to begin putting into place the infrastructure that is now putting Davie County on the map,” said Junker. “There is a lot of risk involved in these large commercial deals, but because of the support of Terry,  the economic development commission, the Town of Mocksville, and the county, we had the courage to take that risk. They understand what it takes to put together deals like this.

“We have a lot to be thankful for here. These projects are going to build the work base for our young people. They won’t have to move to Raleigh or Charlotte to find a good-paying job. They will be able to stay right here in Mocksville. These projects also increase the tax base of the county which is a win for everyone.”

Crown Jewel?

Bralley welcomed to the mix newcomer The Crown Companies, a commercial real estate development company with a presence throughout the Southeast. The company plans to develop up to 2,000,000 SF of industrial space in its 160-acre industrial park off I-40 at Exit 174 (Farmington Road.)

“This particular piece of property had not been available for purchase for a long time, so when it did become available, we wanted it because it’s an I-40 location and it’s a tremendous piece of property. It’s simply a natural fit for development,” said Tim Dockery, the company’s founder.

Crown is in the planning stages of its first 300,000 SF industrial spec building, which it hopes to deliver in the 2nd quarter of 2023,  and will begin grading all four lots sometime this summer.

A lack of available industrial buildings doesn’t mean Bralley has time to rest on his laurels. He continues to receive regular phone calls from companies interested in the graded pads and build-to-suit opportunities at SouthPoint and Davie Industrial.

“International companies are considering moving their supply chains to the US. I’ve received a lot of interest from Europe, India, and the Northeast. I’ve also received numerous inquiries from the automotive industry following the announcements of Toyota Battery and VinFast at the Greensboro-Randolph and Triangle Innovation Point mega-sites.”

As a result, Bralley is focused on identifying industrial sites and developing the necessary water, sewer, and utility infrastructure to support them. He is writing state and federal grants and working with state representatives to fund those improvements.   

Despite rising interest rates and elevated building costs, he also fields regular requests from developers and builders seeking housing sites.

“The demand for industrial and residential sites in Davie County remains high. I see many more great projects in our future.”