Vacant businesses hold potential for local economy

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

County officials believe two vacant businesses in Elizabethton have future economic potential. The General Shale property, Sycamore St., and the old Builder's Source property, West Elk Ave., have been vacant for about a year.
   Although there has been some interest in the General Shale property, no purchase offers have been made. Dave McNees works with the company's real estate development department, and believes the property is in a good location to do business.
   He stated the only reason General Shale pulled out of Elizabethton is because of the new block plant it built in Piney Flats. "It was a good plant and we hated to close, but the last year it really became a surplus storage for us," McNees said.
   McNees stated the property is mostly vacant. The building occupies only one and a half of the lot's eight acres. According to McNees, the land is mostly flat, and offers good access points for industries.
   McNees recognizes the lack of demand in the market for properties like General Shale. "These types of developing and redeveloping are slow right now. There are not many looking to go into it," McNees said.
   The property is currently listed with a commercial realty group in Johnson City. Brenda Green is the realtor working on the sale. Green said there are 1,350 square feet of office space along with shops and garages on the property.
   The manufacturing building is approximately 16,500 square feet and its doors are 12 feet high. Green stated the buildings are ideal for heavy truck maintenance or manufacturing industries.
   The Builder's Source property, at the old Paty location, is also listed by an independent realty group. The property offers unique access to businesses because the railroad line dissects the parcel of land. "Businesses could load trucks from railcars, or vice versa," said County Executive Dale Fair.
   The railroad has not operated since Alcoa, General Shale and Builder's Source closed last year.
   Elizabethton has lost a great deal in sales tax revenues in the past year because of business closings. Frank Schaffer Publications in the Watauga Industrial Park also closed its doors last year.
   Fair believes if the railroad were to begin operating again, the Builder's Source property would be in demand because of its location. However, more industry is needed in Elizabethton in order to support the rail system. Fair stated that the railroad must have at least three customers in order to operate.
   The new Elizabethton connector will also open up loading and access options at the property. Five lanes will be constructed up to G Street, which passes by the property on West Elk.
   Fair stated the Builder's Source building is on a good piece of property, and the land should be used. He is interested in seeing a business move into the building, or having the land developed in the future. "It is definitely on my radar screen," Fair said.
   Although there are no current prospects to purchase either of the two properties, Economic Development Director Haynes Elliott is still optimistic about the economic future of Elizabethton and Carter County. "We are not in bad shape in this county," Elliott said. "My whole life I have lived here and there has always been somebody leaving and somebody coming."
   Elliott said that he does not have buyers lined up for the General Shale and Builder's Source properties yet, but has a number of prospects for new businesses in Industrial Park.