JEFFERSON — During the Ashe County Board of Commissioners’ Monday, Feb. 18 meeting, the owners of Carolina Timberworks apologized to the county for leaving a parcel vacant and undeveloped since purchasing it in 2007, and presented a plan to build their new facilities at Beaver Creek Industrial Park, about 12 years behind schedule.
According to Carolina Timberworks owner Eric Morley, his company purchased 3.643 acres on School Street at Beaver Creek Industrial Park between Southeastern Specialty Vehicles and Global Manufacturing Services in 2007, shortly before the Great Recession devastated sales at his Boone-based timber framing business.
Under then-County Manager Dan McMillan and then-Director of Economic Development Patricia Mitchell, Ashe County sold the 3.6-acre parcel to Carolina Timberworks at a $62,643 discount, based on economic incentives requiring the company to build a manufacturing facility on the property and employ 13 people for a minimum of five years, according to county documents. Stipulations were included in case the business lasted fewer than five years, but no timeframe was included for the timber framing company to begin construction — which turned out to be a loophole in the contract, according to commissioners Chairman Todd McNeill.
“I’m no lawyer, but the contract is not great — particularly in favor of the county,” McNeill said. “It is rather open-ended.”
Prompted by a 30-day legal notice dated Jan. 14 from Ashe County attorney John Kilby, who threatened to bring suit in resolving the matter of the long-undeveloped land, Morley appeared before the commissioners to plead his case Feb. 18.
“We think the county did a really good thing 12 years ago when it gave us the incentive on that land, and the county made an investment in our little company that was four years old,” Morley said. “What we’d like is the county’s support, and not just support, but enthusiasm for Carolina Timberworks to move forward under the original agreement.”
Almost 12 years after originally purchasing land in Ashe County, Morley laid out a timeframe for constructing his long-delayed Carolina Timberworks facility, with plans to break ground May 15 and move his company into the building Dec. 11. The commissioners seemed displeased by the long-delayed update, but the way the 2007 contract was written gave the board little leverage.
“With the contract written as it has been written, it’s open-ended — they didn’t put a deadline in it at that time,” Vice Chair William Sands said. “I don’t see any reason, if you really feel good, and your word is that you would have it operational by the end of the year, that we shouldn’t go on with it.”
And so, after recovering from the Great Recession and continuing its growth in Boone, Carolina Timberworks plans to move its facilities to West Jefferson by the end of 2019, according to Morley, upholding his end of a contract signed 12 years ago.