July 31, 2013 10:16:19 AM
William Browning - firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuart Millner flew into Columbus for the 26th time Tuesday morning. It certainly won't be his last trip to town.
Millner is president and CEO of Stuart B. Millner and Associates, an asset management company based just outside of St. Louis, Mo. He has been in negotiations with Omnova Solutions Inc., since October. The talks centered around Millner's purchase of the Ohio-based company's property at the intersection of Highway 69 and Yorkville Road.
The sale was finalized on July 2. Millner declined to say what he paid for the property citing a confidentiality agreement. But he now owns the 700,000 square foot structure that sits on 92 acres in east Columbus.
Walking through the massive property Tuesday, he explained how he plans to bring the newly named Columbus Business Center "back to life in another way."
"We are converting the property from a single-tenant, single-owner, like Omnova, to a multi-tenant, multi-owner situation," he said. "I think this is a great opportunity to re-do the building and bring employment back to this part of the world."
He has owned the property less than a month and hesitated to give a definitive time line on when the renovations would be completed.
"We have a tremendous amount of work to do to clear out the existing manufacturing equipment that was here and get it back clean from wall to wall, floor to ceiling," he said.
But he believes the property will be ready to welcome businesses before the end of the year. Between the purchase price and what it will cost to renovate, Millner's company is expected to put roughly $10 million into the project.
Omnova, which produces vinyl cover fabrics, has already agreed to lease roughly 220,000 square feet of the structure for its distribution center. There are no other commitments at this point, but Millner envisions the remaining 500,000 square feet of the property eventually housing 10 to 12 warehousing and light manufacturing companies. Some might need 5,000 square feet. Some might need 50,000 square feet, he said.
"I think it would be a major distribution area for logistic companies who want to move their product from here," Millner said, adding that 200 to 300 jobs would be a realistic estimate.
Millner's company has undertaken similar projects across the country. A Whirlpool plant closed in Evansville, Ind., in the late 1980s and Millner bought the 25- to 30-acre property.
"Now it has over 900 employees in an area that was once abandoned by Whirlpool," he said.
Joe Max Higgins, the CEO of the Golden Triangle Development Link, agreed with Millner's jobs projection. The basic rule of thumb in the distribution business, Higgins said, is one job for every 1,000 square feet. He also believes Millner's overall goal for the property -- to reshape it as a multi-tenant industrial park -- is achievable because of the loading docks already in place, rail service and the structure's close proximity to Highway 82 East.
"With a little help and some luck, I think we've got something here that we have never been able to offer before," Higgins said.
Millner said the area of Columbus where the property sits "is sort of an orphan" but one with growth possibilities in its future. He cited Yokohama coming to West Point and the number of automotive manufacturers within a 100-mile radius.
"I think there is a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm that should be brought to everybody in this town that this is not Sourpussville, Miss.," he said. "This is a growing, wonderful area to live in."