For more than a year and a half, the doors of the former Caterpillar plant off the U.S. 319 bypass have remained locked and closed.
Thanks to the efforts of the Thomasville Payroll Development Authority, the forlorn building soon could be springing back to life in a matter of a few months.
The PDA announced earlier this week that a New York firearms supplier will be moving into the Caterpillar building next year
The Caterpillar building was called a “Cadillac” of an industrial building by former city council member Don Sims. The plant opened 20 years ago and approximately 200 people were employed at the 168,000 square foot facility.
But Caterpillar decided to consolidate some of its operations, and the work done in Thomasville was moved to Illinois.
About 15 months ago, the City of Thomasville bought the building for $3.4 million. Caterpillar annually paid $1 million to the city for its utilities service.
Since the city took over the building, it has been shown repeatedly to interested parties. A food processing outfit was said to be inspecting the building as a potential home for its operations.
Perhaps the most serious suitor was a gun manufacturer that had Thomasville and the Caterpillar building on its short list. Instead, that prospect, Kimber Manufacturing out of Yonkers, New York, will build a $38 million facility in Troy, Alabama.
Yet that interest from Kimber is what led to the announcement earlier this week that a gun parts supplier will pack up its New York operations and relocate to Thomasville.
The first round of hirings — all told, there are expected to be 230 jobs — is anticipated to take place in the second quarter of 2019. That’s less than a year away.
The company also will make a $15 million investment in the former Caterpillar building. The company, which has other endeavors — makes ammunition magazines for top-notch firearms manufacturers such as Kimber, Colt, Smith and Wesson and Sig Sauer. The company isn’t just moving its operations to the Rose City — the whole family is coming to Thomasville too
In fact, the last few weeks have been something for the PDA to celebrate, with the announcement late last month of the Red Hills Business Park’s first official tenant, Southern States Insulation.
Other prospects may follow suit into Red Hills Business Park, which has parcels as large as 90 acres in its 290-acre tract.
Yet the news of a long-awaited successor to Caterpillar in Thomasville is a welcome addition to the community.