Officials’ gamble to purchase WestPoint Home building paying off

Published 3:07 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2015

For nearly two years, the WestPoint Home facility stood empty — a reminder of what was once a thriving business in the Camellia City.

These days, that same building now stands as a symbol of what can be.

In February of 2013, the City of Greenville purchased the 300,000 square-foot building from WestPoint Home for $750,000, with the Butler County Commission chipping in $50,000 to make the deal happen.

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The purchase ultimately led to Ozark Materials, which leases the building from the Industrial Development Board of the City of Greenville, establishing a production facility in the Camellia City.

“From the first time I came down here and saw this plant, and met with (Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon), I wanted to come here,” said Lee Gross, president of Ozark Materials. “We feel like this facility and this community are a great fit for our company. I’m all about a handshake and a man’s word, and I found that in (McLendon.)”

After announcing its plans to open its Greenville plant in May of 2013, with an initial investment of $3 million, Ozark Materials announced an additional investment of $2 million just eight months later.

The company, which serves 13 states in the Southeast, Midwest and Northeast, originally expected to employ 40 people. It currently has 65 employees at its Greenville facility, which produces granular thermoplastic pavement markings, preformed thermoplastic pavement markings and waterborne traffic paint.

“It was the right match at the right time,” said Mike Dean, vice president of operations for Ozark Materials.

Company officials said that the 300,000 square-foot building gave them the flexibility to expand as quickly as needed in order to add additional product lines, such as the preformed thermoplastic pavement markings.

When the city purchased the building in 2013, McLendon knew that some would view it as a gamble — and a costly one at that. At the time, McLendon said he didn’t view it that way at all.

“I’m not a gambler,” he said. “I believe this is a good investment for our community.”

It’s proven to be so far, and city and county officials are hoping it’s one that continues to pay off.

“This is the best example you can have of the city and the county working together,” said David Hutchison, executive director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. “That building was just going to be demolished and sold for whatever the value of the materials were — the brick, the steel, whatever — and because of the leadership of the city and the county not letting that happen, they were able to negotiate an affordable price on the building and create 65 jobs, and we hope that will grow into 75 or 85 jobs with their product lines expanding and their customer base expanding. We expect that growth to keep happening.”

Hutchison said he’s also hoping that Ozark Materials’ recent success, and the role the city and county have played, will send a message to other businesses that are interested in locating in Butler County.

“This shows that the city and the county work well together,” Hutchison said. “That doesn’t happen in every county. … This wouldn’t have happened without the city and the county cooperating.”