An investment group is interested in helping former tire workers reopen their former plant in Cumberland to produce tires and house at least six other companies.
The New York-based investment group would lease one-third of the plant to the tire workers, James S. Getty Jr., co-chairman of the tire workers' group, said recently.
The rest of the space would be rented to about a half-dozen other businesses, Getty said.
"The investment group would provide all the money for the start-up of the plant. It involves no public money at all," Getty said. "If we get a commitment from their lenders, it's a done deal. We'll know by the end of November."
David Edgerley, economic development director for Allegany County, said he was anxious to see the latest proposal because an out-of-state manufacturer had expressed interest in buying the factory. He would not disclose the name of the manufacturer, but said it does not make tires.
Getty said the New York investment group learned about efforts to restart the plant from a trade journal article.
"If it were not for this group, I think we would have been at the end of the road," Getty said.
The plant, along the Potomac River in Cumberland, closed in May 1987, idling 1,000 workers. The group of furloughed workers, called Project IMPACT, has been working for nearly four years to form an employee-owned company to make bias-ply truck tires.
In April, state officials rejected a $5 million loan guarantee and a $3 million loan the workers needed to fill gaps in a public-private financing package.
Two months later, Allegany County bought the plant from the state for $1.5 million and had high hopes of reviving the factory and housing some county offices in the building.
The county's decision to buy the tire plant bought the tire workers time to try to reopen the factory with money from private business and the federal government.
But when the Persian Gulf crisis erupted, commercial lenders who had been interested in loaning money for the venture put the project on hold. No application was ever sent to secure money from the federal Economic Development Administration.
"The commercial banks are a little bit shaky because of this Middle East situation," Getty said. "They don't know what the fallout of the economy is going to be. Everyone agrees we're in a recession. If oil prices go up, no one knows how deep it will be."
The investment group has its own source of domestic and foreign financing, Getty said.