March 18, 2009 Edition

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UAM to expand
in spec building

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The speculative building located in the Industrial Park near College City, owned by the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, has been sold to Universal Asset Management, Inc. (UAM), for $100,000. UAM already has one building near the Walnut Ridge Regional Airport and one in Pocahontas where they recycle and sell aircraft parts.

The 40,500-square foot building was built in 2000 as an economic development tool to attract new industry to the area. During that time, the Office of Economic Development advised communities to have a building ready to house a business if one was interested in moving to the area, and many towns and cities followed their advice.

"The idea worked for some cities, but it just didn't pan out for us," Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers said. "Some cities have more than one building they are still trying to sell."

"Our spec building has been vacant for 10 years and it's starting to deteriorate," she added. "The Chamber has had it listed with a real estate agency for a long time, asking $350,000 for it."

First National Bank in Walnut Ridge held first mortgage on the building and the city held the second mortgage. Regions Bank, Pulaski Bank and the Chamber of Commerce also had money invested in the building. First National Bank could have kept the entire amount the building sold for, but instead divided it among all five businesses that had invested money, according to city council member Paula Haskins and Mayor Rogers.

Councilman Johnny Fears said, "The city has lost $250,000 of the taxpayers' money, but 10 years ago the chamber and the city were advised to build a speculative building to attract industry, and that's what we did. It just didn't work out for us. Other cities have lost money this way, too."

The mayor and the council said it was a hard decision to settle for the smaller amount the building sold for, but their $20,000 share is better than having the building set empty, and the expanding business will also create a few new jobs in the future. The banks and the Chamber agreed with the council.

New owners plan move

Shawn Vaughn, general manager of Universal Asset Management, Inc., said their company will use their new building to store and ship aircraft parts. They plan to begin moving in within the next two weeks or as soon as the new concrete floor is finished.

" We recycle all types of aircraft parts," Vaughn said, "including jet liners such as 737s, 777s, airbuses and all sorts of regional aircraft with the exception of rotor crafts (helicopters)."

He said their current operation has been in Walnut Ridge for five years. The company disassembles planes and repairs their parts. Once the repairs are complete, they are inspected and certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The parts are then stored and later sold. They also buy aircraft for resale and store them for short and long terms, Vaughn said.

"A couple of times a year the FBI comes here to train their agents for hostile entries into planes, such as hostage situations," Vaughn added.

He said the company expects the building to be fully manned within two years, and that four people will be able to man the building.

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