Workers will again flock to the former Blue Bird bus manufacturing plant as, over the next several weeks, that 271,000-square-foot factory becomes home to Phillip Bros. Machine Co.
A $3 million 20-year bond through The Bank of LaFayette will allow the local machine company to enter a lease-purchase arrangement with the Walker County Development Authority for the industrial site just south of LaFayette Airport.
"We've been working diligently with the development authority," Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said."We're very pleased that this is happening."
That plant situated on roughly 125 acres has been idle since Blue Bird flew the coop in August 2010 and relocated all school bus manufacturing operations to its Fort Valley headquarters.
Phillips Bros. is buying the factory building and roughly 50 of the surrounding acres, the remainder of the land will continue being offered to potential businesses looking for a site that has ready access to utilities and transportation systems.
Larry Brooks, executive director of the Walker County Office of Economic Development, said the county has been actively marketing the plant and its surroundings since purchasing the property from Blue Bird about a year ago.
The development authority will hold title to the property for 10 years, keeping it off the tax rolls, with all lease payments being used to retire the bond, he said.
"The development authority can offer tax incentives," Brooks said. "This is the same thing we've done for Roper, for Nissin Brake or for Blue Bird - it is common. All we're interested in is that jobs are created and that the debt is taken care of."
This purchase will allow Phillip Bros. to consolidate operations now spread among four sites in Rossville and provide opportunities to grow the business, according to owner Randy Phillips.
The company makes the hydraulic boom for Heil automated garbage, refuse and recycling trucks manufactured in Fort Payne, Ala., as well as products for the textile industry and companies such as Alstom, in Chattanooga.
Since its founding in 1974 by Ronald Phillips and his sons, Randy and Mark, this has been a family business and there are no plans for that to change. Randy serves as president and his son Michael is plant manager.
"I am so proud of this native Walker County company," Heiskell said. "Phillips is a true testament as to what hard work and integrity can mean for the success of any business."
The company currently has 60 employees and hopes to have about 100 within a few months after it transfers all operations into its new plant.
Skilled and unskilled labor will be needed with salaries ranging from $10 to $25 per hour, Phillips said.