The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., John McDermott column [The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C. :: ]
(Post & Courier (Charleston, SC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 23--It isn't far from Yeamans Hall, the exclusive Hanahan country club enclave where Roger Milliken kept a weekend place for years.
The late South Carolina textile magnate, a dyed-in-the-wool industrialist, almost certainly would have approved of owning Bushy Park today.
In a legacy sort of way, he does.
An offshoot of his Spartanburg-based Milliken & Co. announced last week it has bought out the owner of the 1,600-acre industrial park, one of the first of its kind to be built in the Charleston region.
Financial terms were not disclosed by new owner Pacolet Milliken Enterprises, a privately owned investment company that Milliken, his family and other shareholders in his global manufacturing business set up in 2007 as a way to diversify.
The firm's twofold investment strategy targets the energy and commercial real estate industries. Bushy Park straddles both sectors, putting it square in the "sweet spot," said Ralph Walker, senior vice president at Pacolet Milliken.
Walker noted that in addition to rail and water access, the newly acquired Berkeley County site offers its "tenants" steam, compressed air, nitrogen and other specialized utility-like infrastructure services that heavy manufacturers usually have to fetch for themselves. Bushy Park also is next to a S.C. Electric & Gas power plant.
"It's very unique to have both aspects wrapped up in one property," he said. "There's definitely value there."
The sale caps a chancy bet for the previous owner. Predicting that U.S. manufacturing was on the cusp of a big comeback, Cooper River Partners LLC snapped up Bushy Park for $10 million in 2009. At the time, most real estate investors were sitting on their hands and still quaking from the recession.
Five years in, property values have snapped back, and the backers decided to sell. Bill Krahe, a Pittsburgh developer and lawyer who was the group's lead investor, credited locally based CEO Marc Fetten for tirelessly promoting Bushy Park to companies and "positioning" the property for its eventual sale. "It was the right time to move forward," Krahe said last week. "It's been great dealing with the market there, with the people. Hopefully, we have grown it and set it up for the next owner."
The biggest catch to date has been Nexans, a high-voltage cable manufacturer that's wrapping up an $85 million plant that will hire 200 workers. The company recently began production, said Fetten, who's staying with Bushy Park Industrial Complex.
"It's business as usual," he said.
It's somewhat fitting that French-owned Nexans is the newest employer at Bushy Park, which has been home to numerous global manufacturers over the past few decades.
The property was first conceived as a 4,000-acre campus for heavy industry in the 1940s as South Carolina economic development officials began chasing smokestack businesses that needed to be near an abundant source of fresh water.
SCE&G acquired the property in the mid-1960s and later built its Williams Generating Station on part of the tract. Parcels were later sold off in bits and pieces.
Bushy Park in its current form was created in 1970 by Verona Color and Bayer Corp., which built a plant there. Other business tenants have included a number of household names, including General Dynamics.
The park is now home to eight global manufacturers that have invested more than $1.2 billion at the property and created thousands of jobs. Products made on the site include ingredients for sunscreen, pigments, film and fragrances.
Walker, the Pacolet Milliken executive, sees room to add more residents in what he described as "an industrial neighborhood."
"We liked it being in the Charleston area," Walker said. "The port is going to be one of the leading ports in the country. The area's economy is booming. We decided with Pacolet Milliken's balance sheet we could make the necessary financial comimitment to maintain and grow the park with existing businesses and with new tenants. Two-thirds of the park is still undeveloped from a land-mass standpoint."
Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.
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