By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times
Three years after Holly Pond’s largest employer shut down, a new company is poised to take its place and create 50 jobs.
HessAire has purchased the former VF Jeanswear facility that operated in Holly Pond for more than 25 years and employed 150 before it closed in 2010. HessAire plans to open a new manufacturing plant inside the former VF Jeanswear building with the help of a $1.7 million property tax abatement approved this month by Holly Pond and Cullman County.
HessAire has manufactured motors and fans for the HVAC industry at its original Cullman location on Old Hanceville Highway since 1997. It currently employs 40 there. HessAire President Jerry Fan said fans produced in the new facility would be made on a much larger scale. The overall investment in the new plant will be more than $2 million once another $300,000 to $500,000 is spent for new equipment, Cullman Economic Development Agency officials said.
“VF Jeanswear had been so beneficial to the citizens of Holly Pond for many years that it will be great to see that facility active once again,” said CEDA Director Peggy Smith.
Smith said Holly Pond has been working hard to find a new owner for the facility since it closed. The building was reopened briefly after the April 2011 tornadoes to house VF Jeanswear’s Hackleburg operations after the plant was destroyed by the deadly tornado outbreak. Once Hackleburg rebuilt its facility, operations resumed there, and the building has since set vacant.
The CEDA has been actively marketing the building and coordinating those efforts regularly with the Cullman County Economic Development Agency, Holly Pond and county commission, Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker said. Once Fan expressed interest in the facility, VF offered him a large discount if he would move up his timetable and close on the building before June 30, officials said.
It will take some time to renovate the building and move in new machinery from China, but production will begin soon after.
“It’s going to have a huge economic impact for us,” said Holly Pond Mayor Herman Nail. “I think it’s going to revive our community.”
CEDA Assistant Director Dale Greer still remembers the day the VF plant closed its doors in 2010 and how Nail stressed how important it was to Holly Pond for a new industry to be found to replace those jobs.
“None of us anticipated that the tornadoes would take the building off the market for more than two years, but as soon as it was officially available again, it very quickly was purchased and will be put back in use,” Greer said. “I am proud our community could play a role in helping Hackleburg get their largest employer back, but I am also excited about Holly Pond getting a new industry to fill that void.”
Fan expects growth in the HVAC market, and within a year after the new facility opens, he may look at consolidating the two operations but will continue adding jobs, not shedding them.
“I think this move strengthens the company, but also strengthens and diversifies our industrial base,” Walker said.
Tiffeny Owens can be reached at email@example.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 135.