December 5, 2006

Former B&W Plant Sold to Ky. Company: Cumberland and Western Resources Inc. Plans to Market Property to Potential Tenants

By Linda S. Morris, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.

Dec. 5--R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. has sold the former Brown & Williamson Tobacco manufacturing plant in Bibb County, officials said Monday.

The 1.4 million-square-foot plant has been sold for an undisclosed amount to Cumberland and Western Resources Inc., a Bowling Green, Ky.-based holding company with diverse assets in real estate, forestry, minerals, recreation and operating companies, said Bill Murphree, vice president of development. The company plans to market the property to potential tenants.

"We think it's an exceptional, quality facility," Murphree said of the former B&W cigarette factory. "It's extremely well-designed and constructed."

It's too early to say how the facility will be used, he said. Consultants have been hired to evaluate several different alternatives for the property.

"We are very, very dedicated to insuring the facility remains an asset and a very important resource to that whole community and the region," Murphree said.

In October, RJR announced it was finalizing a deal to sell the plant that opened here about 30 years ago. At its peak the Bibb facility employed about 3,000 people.

RJR bought B&W in 2004, moved the production operation to Winston-Salem, N.C., and closed the plant here.

"The sale closes the chapter on the long and storied tenure of the facility with B&W and R.J. Reynolds," said Fred McConnell, RJR's manager of public relations.

Reynolds is certain Cumberland and Western will find a good user or users for the plant, he said.

"I see it as a win, win, win," said McConnell, who used to work at the Bibb County plant. "It's a win for Macon, it's a win for the buyer, and it's a win for R.J. Reynolds. Obviously, it's very expensive for us to operate. Instead of it sitting empty ... we're very confident in their capability of putting it to its best use."

Murphree and McConnell declined to disclose the sales price.

While the facility is being evaluated for potential tenants, Murphree was sure what kind of business would not be operating in the plant.

"The facility will not be used for cigarette manufacturing," he said.

Also, Murphree said he didn't know how long it would take to find a new business for the site.

"Certainly our goal would be to execute the redevelopment plan for the facility as soon as feasible, but I really don't know how long that might take," he said. "We're really excited about it. We just want to take it a step at a time."

Pat Topping, executive vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission, said the sale is a good step in redeveloping the site.

"Now we've got a real owner who wants to market the property and understands that it might have to be marketed split up (to various users)," Topping said.

When Murphree came to Bibb County to evaluate the facility, he was impressed with the location, he said.

"Macon is very strategically located for many different considerations -- certainly its proximity to Atlanta and also its proximity to the port of Savannah. It's really a nice-sized community that we think will offer lots of possibilities and different opportunities for the facility."

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223 or e-mail [email protected] [mailto:[email protected]].


Copyright (c) 2006, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.

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