By Scott Robertson
With only days to spare, Mullican Flooring officials closed on the purchase of a 126,000-square-foot warehouse at 129 Roweland Drive last week. The purchase will make possible a planned $15 million, 200-job expansion for the company over the next five years in Johnson City.
Mullican’s option on the property expired at the end of July, according to Mitch Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council, which worked to keep Mullican from making the expansion in Eastern Kentucky or Southwest Virginia, two other areas where Mullican already has property.
The Johnson City and Washington County commissions were each asked to put $600,000 toward a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan allowing Mullican to purchase the property, then pay rent to the Johnson City IDB over the next 15 years.
The plan essentially repays both the city and the county for their up-front investment, with a minimum of 9 percent interest. The IDB will split the rent payments it receives from Mullican evenly between the city and county governments, which each put in 50 percent of the $1.2 million cost of the building.
The city commission approved its $600,000 investment July 21. The county followed suit July 25. The final public approval came at a meeting of the Johnson City Industrial Development Board July 28.
The formal announcement came from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd and Mullican Flooring officials in a release last Wednesday afternoon.
“Mullican Flooring is one of Tennessee’s homegrown success stories and I applaud them for their commitment to provide another 200 jobs for Johnson City and Washington County residents,” Haslam said.
“Our state’s ideal location, low cost of doing business and the strength of East Tennessee’s workforce make the Volunteer State the perfect place for manufacturing companies to thrive. Mullican Flooring’s decision to invest further in Washington County brings us another step closer to our goal to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
“Mullican Flooring has always found Washington County, Johnson City and the state of Tennessee to be exceptional partners to local businesses,” Neil Poland, president of Mullican Flooring, said. “The tremendous work ethic of our existing employees has created a successful foundation at our Johnson City plant to help make this expansion possible. We look forward to reaping the benefits that this expansion will provide to both Mullican Flooring and our hometown community.”
The Roweland Drive building will be used to warehouse raw materials and finished products, including many currently stored at the company’s headquarters at 655 Woodlyn Road. The extra capacity will provide additional space at the company’s headquarters and production, allowing the plant to meet increased manufacturing demand.
Mullican Flooring plans to hire 50 to 80 new employees during the next year. Over the next five years, the company plans to invest approximately $15 million in equipment, buildings and working capital in Johnson City. Once completed, the expansion will nearly double the company’s current employment base in Washington County.
“I’m excited to hear the news that Mullican Flooring will be expanding in our community,” Johnson City Mayor Clayton Stout said. “We appreciate the opportunity to participate in bringing in these types of quality manufacturing jobs and look forward to the continued success of Mullican Flooring in Johnson City.”
Said Tommy Burleson, chair of the Washington County Economic Development Council, “Mullican Flooring’s commitment to retain 231 jobs and create an additional 200 new jobs reinforces that this project is not only a great investment for Mullican Flooring, but a great return on investment for our community.”
Said Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, “The decision to create 200 new jobs is not only great news for the economy of our community, but it is also further confirmation of Mullican Flooring’s ability to compete globally from their Johnson City-based operations. This is very encouraging as we look for other significant opportunities for an existing employer to expand or to attract a new employer to this community.”