A former Alstom manufacturing site near Chattanooga's waterfront, unoccupied for the past four years, is seeing new life from a company that coats auto parts, firearms and industrial machinery.
Also, "available" signs have come up on the adjacent giant GE Power tract on Riverfront Parkway, where one official foresees a potential institutional investor buying the 50-acre parcel and possibly leasing it to one or multiple entities.
Techniques Surfaces USA is leasing 35,000 square feet on part of a site that once housed wind tower maker Aerisyn and, before that, Alstom.
The Springfield, Ohio, company, a subsidiary of French giant HEF Group, initially is employing eight to 10 people, but plans are to reach 50 to 60 workers when its new location is fully built out, said Chief Executive Dr. Rajiv Ahuja.
Ahuja said that close to $3 million is going into the operation's first phase, but the location could hold $7 million to $10 million in investment in the future as the company offers other capabilities.
"The building is one of the few in Chattanooga with high ceilings," he said about the structure at Riverfront Parkway and West Main Street. "This was a good fit."
Charles Wood, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of economic development, said TS USA has a diverse customer base.
Based in France, the company is seen as a global leader in the science of tribology, or on wear and friction, for more than 50 years. HEF is active in more than 40 countries throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
"That's always a good thing from a community standpoint," he said.
TS USA is only using about 20 percent of the available footprint at the former Aerisyn tract.
"They'll make a good neighbor for whoever ends up in the rest of the facility," Wood said.
GE Power Site
Meanwhile, real estate broker CBRE has put on the market the GE Power facilities and property next door that held a steam turbine manufacturing plant and boiler service operation before GE closed them early this year.
The site, held by Alstom and Combustion Engineering before that, has at times employed thousands of people, though the headcount had been whittled to between 200 and 300 more recently.
Wood said he thinks there's interest in that property.
"We put the property in front of more than 50 site selection consultants and industrial companies as well," he said. "It's a very unique asset. There's not anything comparable in the Southeast U.S."
Wood said there's a lot of use left in the property, as both plants were upgraded over the past decade or so. He foresees a potential institutional investor or group acquiring the site and leasing it to one, two or several entities.
"That's not a bad thing," Wood said.
He doesn't think the city or Hamilton County would be interested in purchasing the tract and turning it into an industrial park, an idea that has been mentioned.
"I think the private sector market will do it on its own," Wood said.
About a year and a half ago, GE bought Alstom's power operations and later announced it was closing the steam turbine manufacturing plant and two other adjacent facilities, eliminating nearly 235 jobs in Chattanooga. GE said it planned to keep about 50 people in in the city.
Aerisyn had started up in Chattanooga in 2005, leasing that property from Alstom, with plans to employ as many as 220 people building the tall towers on which wind turbines are placed.
But in 2012, Aerisyn's German parent, SIAG Schaaf, filed for insolvency in a Chapter 11-like bankruptcy. In June 2013, Aerisyn's bankruptcy petition was changed to Chapter 7, which involves liquidation rather than reorganization.
In 2015, Alstom sold the tract and buildings to Talon Office Opportunities GP, which paid $3.5 million.
Ahuja said his company has received a lot of support from the current property owner, which is now called Urban Story Ventures.
The CEO of the company said officials like Chattanooga's proximity in the tri-state area.
"It's within three to four hours driving distance and access to a large industrial population," he said.
TS USA provides surface treatments and coatings which reduce corrosion and friction on the goods. It's starting with a couple of key customers, but plans to generate new business, Ahuja said.
"Automotive is a big part of the global business," he said. Ahuja said every vehicle today probably holds five or six components which have been treated in one of TS USA's five facilities across the country.
Typically, applying the treatment or coating is a last step in a components production process, he said.
"Usually we're the last step in the supply chain," Ahuja said.
Wood said that TS USA isn't receiving any incentive money from the city or Hamilton County. He said that companies often look at existing buildings because speed to the market is key.
"For that facility the infrastructure is there," he said. "There's a substation next door. It's a great site from that perspective."
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.