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Mecklenburg seeks $1 million grant to buy Stage Stores site

SoVaNow.com / November 01, 2017
Mecklenburg County is seeking $1 million from the Virginia Tobacco Commission to purchase the Stage Stores distribution center on Peebles Street in South Hill.

The purchase price is anticipated to be around $2.5 million.

The grant request was submitted by the county last week, and the commission’s Southside Economic Development Committee is expected to take up the request around the end of the year.

In September, Houston-based Stage Stores, Inc. announced it would close its distribution center in South Hill by the end of January, affecting roughly 100 employees. The property encompasses approximately 31.42 acres some 500 feet north of U.S. 58 and one-tenth of a mile east of Interstate 85. The total building area is 101,000 square feet; however, there is ample space for expansion if needed.

In its application, Mecklenburg County anticipates that 100 jobs will be recovered and 25 new, full-time jobs will be created as a result of the purchase of the facility, though it did not name a specific tenant for the property. However, county officials indicated that the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VDEP) — a site selection and business vetting group — has received inquiries from more than 30 prospects in the past 24 months searching for 100,000-150,000 square foot expansion sites.

There are only 14 facilities in the Commonwealth that meet this criteria, with the Stage Stores distribution center potentially among them. The facility with its high ceilings and relatively good condition, as well as its proximity to U.S. 58 and Interstate 85, make it a desirable site.

By acquiring the site, Mecklenburg County says it will be in a better position to meet one of its strategic goals: recruiting new industry and expanding existing businesses and industry, particularly in sectors such as regional distribution.

Additionally, Mangum Economics completed a regional profile and workforce development assessment in 2013 for Virginia’s Growth Alliance. This study looked at the existing economic patterns and the economic base and natural resources that the region could build on to achieve growth. Logistics and Distribution was one of the five targeted industry sectors.

In its prime, Stage Stores, Inc. employed up to 200 workers through its distribution center and up to 180 employees through its headquarters located in South Hill. In 2013, Stage Stores closed its headquarters office. In its tobacco grant application, the county said it was not unreasonable to expect that the right tenant would employ a similar number of workers.

While the county’s unemployment rate hovers around 5 percent, the number of available workers has not rebounded to pre-2008 levels before the great recession. If the workers from the South Hill distribution center were to relocate, Mecklenburg would lose a large number of qualified workers already trained to work in the logistics industry.

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