Three years after Yale Locks & Hardware’s parent company Assa Abloy closed the Lenoir City plant and relocated to Berlin, Conn., the 222,000-square-foot building has been leased to a new company that plans to open shop early this year.
Assa Abloy reached a long-term lease agreement with East Tennessee logistics company R&S Logistics. The lease went into effect Jan. 1.
David Schmid, R&S Logistics president, said the facility will be fully operational toward the end of the first quarter of 2016. While he would not disclose the terms of the contract, he said the agreement is “long term,” and the company will be part of Loudon County for “years.”
“We’re strong in Loudon County, and we’ve been growing (and) needed more space, and we’ve been looking, talking to Yale really for the last year,” Schmid said. “You probably know — I think most of there’s a little bit of history there with some environmental issues. The property has been under the direction of TDEC, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Yale’s gone to great lengths to do their part in cleaning up.”
Schmid said the company still needs to do some work on the site, including installing a new sprinkler system, rinsing the outside walls, fixing roof leaks and getting the heat online. Overall, the property needs “just lots of renovation and (upgrades) just to get it functional for our purposes to run a logistics company out of there,” he said.
“It just needs some TLC,” Schmid said. “It’s been basically shuttered for the last three years I guess or almost two (or) three. I’m not sure when the last person walked out of there. I think it’s 2012, and so just getting it back online. We’ve done major cleanup, some repair work, just basically sort of pulling it out of the boneyard, so to speak. It’s just been sort of a mothball.”
Schmid said the property will be utilized for “a lot” of movement and production distribution. With this addition, he said the company will have four locations in Loudon County.
“We had to make sure it was safe. Yale wanted to make sure it was safe,” he said. “TDEC wanted to make sure, wanted to know how it was going to be used. No one was really excited about any new manufacturing because manufacturing brings more hazardous materials into play. You have chemicals and things that go with manufacturing, and so that is really not suited to — at this point for manufacturing, but it’s well suited for (a) distribution facility. We’re going to clean it up, get the flag back up, get the landscape spruced up.”
In a previous interview, Loudon County Economic Development Agency Executive Director Pat Phillips said prospective companies that considered the site shared concerns about the building’s ceiling heights and its environmental footprint, with one primary issue being groundwater contamination.
The property will help meet the third-party company’s growing demand for additional space for its customers, Schmid said.
“It’s going to look good the way it did when Yale operated it,” Schmid said. “It’s right there at the front of the business park, and we’re in — we’ve got another facility right behind it on Industrial Park Drive, so we’re just excited to see it doesn’t become kind of an eyesore for the neighborhood, and we get to play a part in it.”
The addition will “definitely” bring some jobs into Loudon County, but Schmid said he was not sure how many. R&S Logistics added another facility last year on Maremont Parkway in the former MSI building that is being shared with sister company Fort Defiance Industries. Schmid said 15 jobs were added at Fort Defiance, with more to be brought on board this year.
“The Yale facility doesn’t have a job count,” Schmid said. “It will be small job growth, not huge. It’s not a building that unfortunately really can’t be set up as a manufacturing operation just yet because of some of the TDEC issues and things. So it’s more distribution, and the people count’s not real heavy.”
Lenoir City Mayor Tony Aikens said city officials were “very excited” to have a company utilize the old Yale Locks building, and he hopes the new facility will bring more jobs.
Loudon County Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw said any job additions should be a positive for Lenoir City and Loudon County.
“It’s never good if it’s going to sit empty, and so that’ll — regardless of the amount of jobs, it’s just great to have some jobs in there,” Bradshaw said.
Filling the building will be a benefit for the county, Phillips said.
“We are very pleased that Assa Abloy and R&S have been able to reach an agreement on a lease that allows for the reuse of the facility, since vacant buildings bring no economic benefits to the community,” Phillips said in an email correspondence.
Currently, about 50,000 square feet of the facility is being used to receive freight while work is still being done, Schmid said.
“Yes, it’s operational and continuing to grow just about every day as we just move along,” Schmid said. “We’ve got a very aggressive schedule and a lot of people working in there to getting it finishing it up, just sprinkler testing and all the things you have to do. It’s functional, and it’s open. If there’s people needing warehouse space, we have vacancy.
“We’re taking care of our customers to grow our presence in Loudon County, and we certainly have room for people who are needing our services,” he added.