Guilford Mills, once a hub of employment but vacant for years, has a new owner and the potential for hundreds of jobs.
Green Recycling Solutions International purchased the Cobleskill plant from Schoharie County last Wednesday.
County Treasurer Bill Cherry, who negotiated with GRSI, announced the sale that's been anticipated for months.
"Guilford is the most exciting economic development opportunity Schoharie County's had in 20 years," Mr. Cherry said.
"The job creation could prove stronger than the Wal-Mart Distribution Center that opened in 1995."
"We are delighted to be the new owners of Guilford, and we're looking forward to bringing the facility back to life," Barbara Acuff of GRSI wrote in an email.
GRSI paid $5,000 for the plant and signed a payment in lieu of taxes agreement to pay $60,000 divided between the county, town and village of Cobleskill and Cobleskill-Richmondville School District each year for 10 years.
But although GRSI is getting a tax break, the agreement is tied to job creation. In order to continue its PILOT, GRSI must create 200 jobs in two years and 300 jobs within three years.
GRSI's estimates are more optimistic than that, projecting 932 jobs within five years. Guilford Mills had about 560 employees when it closed in 2001.
In addition to the jobs, GRSI will also provide opportunities for SUNY Cobleskill students.
GRSI expects to have five companies share space in the 465,000-square-foot plant. They'll range from making lingerie to agricultural research to software development.
"Our goal is to make the facility a showcase for green techno logy, so we'll be striving to make the buildings ecologically friendly," Ms. Acuff wrote.
The environmental work will start on the interior, "but by spring we anticipate that we'll be able to tackle the exterior renovations," she added.
Mr. Cherry acknowledged that the companies are start-ups, but said that with any incoming manufacturer--even an established one--there are risks.
"If it's just one company, like Guilford Mills, if it closes, you're left with nothing," he said.
"GRSI is based on separate but related companies under one roof. They'll share services. If one fails, the others remain intact."
And although the companies are start-ups, they've been vetted, researched and approved by Empire State Development and SUNY Cobleskill.
Both ESD and the college are keys to the sale. Part of the plant has been included in START-UP NEW YORK and is free of income taxes for 10 years.
START-UP is through the college, and Mr. Cherry credited Professor Jason Evans with guiding GRSI's application through state channels.
"This project would not have happened without his help and the cooperation of SUNY Cobleskill," Mr. Cherry said.
Ms. Acuff agreed, adding that "without the unwavering support" of Mr. Cherry, the project wouldn't have been possible.
Mr. Cherry also praised Ron Filmer of the Schoharie County Industrial Development Agency with getting all sides to agree on the PILOT, another essential to the sale.
The next step, Ms. Acuff wrote, will be to have GRSI's engineer will be evaluating renovations within 45 days.
"Obviously, the building needs to be brought up to code, and that would include roofing, re-energizing and exterior repairs," Ms. Acuff wrote.
The sale ends 13 years of frustration since Guilford Mills closed September 10, 2001--the day before 9/11.
Guilford Mills sold the factory to Philip Rahaim in 2004. Mr. Rahaim reportedly stripped the building and later lost it to the county for unpaid taxes.
In the past few years, the county had two potential buyers in Intelligent Fish and Butternuts Brewery, but those deals didn't materialize.
Mr. Cherry began marketing Guilford in October 2013. GRSI's involvement began in a curious way: With two Schoharie County men traveling to Pennsylvania to buy a car. (See related story.)