LOWVILLE — The T’s are crossed, I’s dotted and the ink dry on the purchase agreement between the Lewis County Industrial Development Agency and Ox Industries LLC for the Center for Business, formerly the Climax Manufacturing Building.
Ox Industries CEO Kevin Hayward and IDA Executive Director Eric J. Virkler sat down Friday morning in the conference room of the center located just north of Lowville on Route 26, ending a six-week negotiation with an exchange of $900,000 for the 170,000–square-foot building.
“This was a very smooth negotiation,” Mr. Virkler said, “They said they want to make sure the building is safe, secure and ready for winter and so there were no delays in the process.”
Mr. Virkler said the goal of the deal with Ox wasn’t to maximize the return on the IDA’s investment, but to return a manufacturing opportunity to the space, get the building back on the tax rolls and ensure it would be used in a way that wouldn’t leave it derelict and stripped of its resources, as has happened to so many former manufacturing buildings.
The Hanover, Pa., based company’s new acquisition will eventually be a “self-sustaining facility that fits into the Ox Industries’ vertical integration approach” to its production, Mr. Hayward said.
“We’re continuing to do what we do,” Mr. Hayward said, “Basically, you’re only 10 feet away from something we make. If it’s wound on a paper tube or in a paper packaging, we probably had something to do with it.”
According to their website, Ox’s integrated approach involves buying “truckloads” of recycled paper which go to their paper mills to produce material that will then go to their converting facilities, where it’s turned into one of their products, like the tubes inside of everything from carpet to wrapping paper, paperboard and protective packaging.
It then heads to the companies who get Ox’s tubes or protective packaging into the hands of consumers via their own products so the paper materials can be recycled once again.
Details on which part of Ox’s process will take place in their new building or how many jobs may be created are not yet available, but Mr. Hayward said the company is committed to its north country investments and the communities they support.
“We are very community focused as a company,” Mr. Hayward said, citing helping some places with their recycling programs and partnering with a school district in Pennsylvania to create a state-of-the art vocational school.
Mr. Hayward said the paper industry is constantly evolving and now the focus is on “green packaging,” used by companies like Amazon, that remove single use plastics from the mix.
“The main goal of economic development is always to create private sector jobs and keep industrial buildings on the tax rolls. The IDA should be commended for supporting private sector growth,” said County Manager Ryan Piche, praising the agency’s “proactive steps in this economic development success story.”
Despite the building changing ownership, Mr. Virkler said the Center for Business and its tenants, including the IDA itself, the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce and the Journal & Republican will have a one-year lease with Ox Industries as part of the deal, reversing the landlord-tenant relationship.
Ox Industries has been renting about 80,000 square feet of the Business Center’s warehouse space from the IDA for the past year.
Mr. Virkler said the IDA is focused on re-creating the center, offering a variety of offices and shared working spaces along with areas for light manufacturing companies, at a new location somewhere in the village.
“We’ve already started considering a few buildings. What we’ve seen is that there’s interest in these kinds of spaces,” Mr. Virkler said, “In the past four, five months we’ve had a number of leads and at least two were ready to move in, so it’s important to continue this.”
The Chamber and the Journal will be invited to be the first tenants in the new space, too, he said. The Journal, owned by the Johnson Newspaper Co., was one of the first tenants in the Center for Business, having supported the shared office concept.
The building and surrounding 13 acres of mostly paved land is assessed at about $2 million; however, it was listed by real estate brokers for $1.7 million for some time before the IDA put in their successful $800,000 offer in October 2018.
Ox Industries purchased Carthage Specialty Paperboard around the same time for $9.9 million. The company owns two companies that make paper-based products: Ox Paperboard and Ox Paper Tube and Core. It manufactures its products at eight plants in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, West Virginia, North Carolina, Illinois and Texas.
The building was purchased in the name of Nighthawk Industries, the real estate holding company for Ox Industries, LLC.