Council investigates new business
Breaking news of the impending relocation of Sprouse Building Products was bittersweet as the Paden City Council assembled Monday evening.
“We are losing 70 jobs … 120 jobs during peak season,” Mayor Bill Fox remarked. “But we are proud of the Sprouses. They are home grown and we wish them all the best.”
The council and the development authority have been in negotiation with Jeff Sprouse, president of the company, since concerns were brought to their attention regarding the condition of the building the business occupies in the Paden City Industrial Park, though no agreement was reached.
Even so, Paden City is always looking for ways to expand and develop business within the city limits. “We have a business here in town that a lot of people aren’t aware of. It’s a shirt factory and they employ around 30 people,” Fox stated. “They would like to do some expansion. They would like to have a dying operation.”
Fox continued, “I think we need to pursue this…we need some additional industry in here. We need some workers, some people, some jobs. That’s what we have to concentrate on as a council.”
To aid in the call to arms, Fox enlisted the help of Tyler County Development Authority President Eric Peters who has been in contact with the shirt operation’s top guns in recent months as well as top officials in Charleston including the Division of Environmental Protection.
“I have been involved with Carter and Mays, Inc. since they arrived 15 years ago from Georgia. They were the first company that the Tyler County Development Authority successfully recruited,” Peters explained.
According to Peters, Carter and Mays, Inc. had an operation in Paden City for a short period of time in the Industrial Park and then purchased property in Middlebourne where the company was housed until they outgrew it and purchased the former Sprouse Building Products facility.
“They do employ over 30 employees and in our opinion they have been good corporate citizens. They have never asked for any grants or loans from the development authority or through the state. Many of the folks hired originally are still with the company after all this time. The company pays a good wage and provides good benefits.”
When the company first came to West Virginia, they were a cut and sell operation – they bought the fabric and employed sewing machine operators and cutters. Shortly thereafter, they began doing their own embroidery, followed by knitting.
The dying of fabric is the only process in the shirt making operation the company does not perform. Currently all garments are being shipped to a plant in eastern Pennsylvania, adding an additional $1 per unit to the price of each garment sold by Carter and Mays, Inc.
“The last step in a turn key operation for this company is to be able to dye their own fabric,” Peters said. “I have worked with them regarding this issue and have had numerous meetings in Charleston, the last of which was with the Deputy Director with the Division of Environmental Protection.”
Peters said the DEP was very cooperative in this regard, but the big stumbling block they face in Paden City is an ordinance passed a year ago restricting the introduction of any color affluent into the sewer system. This far-reaching ordinance may not have been considered when it was first adopted.
Peters made a few observations about the ordinance and asked, “How will the city monitor each and every sewer customer? The ordinance states you cannot introduce any colored water into the sewer system and it may sound trite, but does this mean that citizens cannot color Easter eggs and dump the leftover dye down the sink? According to the ordinance they cannot. Are residents permitted to dye their hair and rinse it off in the shower? No, according to the letter of the ordinance.”
“While the DEP would allow a test run to see if there was visible color following the treatment at the sewer plant, the ordinance does not allow for that,” commented Peters. “It’s a big obstacle for Carter and Mays or any other business adding affluent with any discernible color.”
“In my humble opinion, the ordinance projects an attitude that Paden City does not welcome business and industrial development because of this restriction,” remarked Peters. “It’s important that Carter and Mays be able to secure their business here by being able do this and not be dependent on a company who decides it’s not worth it anymore because they do not have enough customers.”
While an on-site dye operation would only create five to six new jobs initially, the cost savings involved could open the business up for more expansion in the future.
Ordinance 921 pertaining to detrimental waste clarifies what can and cannot enter the sewer, “…any substance which causes the POT to violate water quality standards or conditions not allowable in state waters; any waste water with color not removed in the treatment process such as but not limited to dye waste and vegetable tanning solution.”
Fox stated, “It stands to reason that this council would not want to take any action that is going to hurt our waste water facility, but I think this thing never got off to start with as it should have and we needed some different people involved in it. That’s why I asked Eric (Peters) to come up here. We need to take a good hard look at the potential here. If we find out we can’t do it, then fine. But I think it behooves us to pursue this to the fullest.”
Council moved to continue to look into the ordinance with the possibility of amendments in the future.