Allegany County has purchased the former Kelly-Springfield tire plant in Cumberland from the state economic development corporation for $1.5 million with plans to house county offices there and high hopes of reviving the factory.
By the end of the year, the massive plant along the Potomac River in western Maryland will house the Allegany County Sheriff's Department, roads department and other county offices.
If a group of rubber workers can get a federal loan, the factory will be home to an employee-owned tire manufacturer called Cumberland Tire and Rubber Co.
The plant closed in May 1987, idling 1,000 workers. It was bought by the Maryland Economic Development Corp. in the hope it could be redeveloped.
The rubber workers, who call themselves Project IMPACT, have tried for three years to restart the factory. In April, state officials rejected a $5 million loan guarantee and a $3 million loan the workers needed to fill gaps in their private-public financing package.
The group plans to file a loan application with the federal Economic Development Administration within the next two weeks, co-chairman James Getty Jr., said last week. The group also is working to attract additional private equity for the venture and get equipment needed to build bias-ply truck tires.
"We meet all their criteria," Getty said, referring to the loan application. "They are more apt to fund an industrialization project where there has been a significant loss of tax base. And they are attempting to raise U.S. exports. We can export everything we build."
If Project IMPACT cannot restart the plant, the county will try to attract other industries and businesses to the 85-acre site.
"They've put countless hours in working to put the plant on line," Allegany County Commission President Arthur Bond said. "We're still optimistic and hope that they have success."
Bond said the sheriff's department will be moved into the former Kelly-Springfield corporate office building by July 6. The county roads department will move to a garage at the plant within one to two months, and the county offices will move to the site within 90 days.
Hans F. Mayer, executive director of the Maryland Economic Development Corp. said the county paid for half the plant last Tuesday and plans to pay the remaining $750,000 within 12 months.
He said he was happy to sell the plant to the county because it was unmarketable as long as Project IMPACT was being given the first chance to use the factory. He said, however, that he would have enjoyed the challenge of trying to adapt the plant for a new use.
"The challenge of working with the plant and trying to redevelop it could be very interesting, but we never had that opportunity," Mayer said.