MILLERSBURG — More than two and a half years after Carriage RV closed its doors, eliminating 200 jobs in this little farm town, a group of smaller employers are breathing new life into the site.
Indianapolis-based Key Auctioneers, the court-appointed receiver for the property at S.R. 13 and C.R. 42, has reached agreements to sell all 16 parcels of land at the site, said Key Auctioneers executive vice president Tim Boeglin.
“The good news is we had a 50-acre property with documented environmental problems, and we were able to subdivide that, annex part of it, rezoned it, and were able to sell every single parcel,” Boeglin said. “Those all will go into productive use. I think you’ll see a pretty vibrant set of businesses over there. I know it’s been painful for Millersburg, particularly the loss of revenues when a company the size of Carriage goes out of business, but I think in the long term the community will be better off.”
Carriage started in the late 1960s and built a reputation for quality high-end fifth wheels, employing more than 275 workers at its peak. The company ended production abruptly in 2011 after it was unable to reach an agreement with PNC Bank over a loan. A subsidiary of Elkhart-based Thor Industries bought the defunct company’s name and brand in 2012.
For about a year after Carriage’s closure, progress was slow for Key Auctioneers as it tried to sell the property as a single 55-acre tract before decided to carve it up into parcels and market to smaller companies.
When Key Auctioneers reaches a sales agreement with a buyer, PNC Bank must approve the deal, then it must be approved by Elkhart Superior Court 1 Judge Evan Roberts. As of Thursday, June 5, Roberts approved the sale of eight of the parcels. Boeglin said PNC Bank is still evaluating sale of the rest.
Middlebury-based IP Moulding Inc. has agreed to pay $2.3 million for the site’s premiere parcel, a 12-acre piece of ground that contains a 160,000-square foot manufacturing facility built about 10 years ago, according to court records. IP Moulding, a subsidiary of Lewiston, N.J.-based Inteplast Group, makes plastic moulding for interior decoration, an alternative to wood trim.
Inteplast spokeswoman Brenda Wilson declined to comment because the property sales transaction had not yet closed, something she expected to happen “within the next couple of days.” She said the company would release more information about expected employment levels at the Millersburg site after the closing.
Several companies are already operating. County Line Laminating, which laminates exterior sidewalls for the RV industry, moved in at the end of November, said co-owner Jerry Miller. The company had outgrown its space in a former Dutchmen Manufacturing site on East County Line Road in Middlebury, where it had operated since 2006.
The new space only increases County Line’s square footage from 19,000 to 21,000, but the old site wasn’t all heated, Miller said.
“This is all in one building,” he said. “The other place had lean-tos here and there and wasn’t efficient.”
Miller said he employs 12 workers and could soon expand if some bids he has out now turn into contracts. That could mean either adding on to his building or leasing another building on the campus, he said.
Another small but growing company, Cutting Edge CNC, bought a parcel and started operations in February, said co-owner Allen Eash. The company started two years ago in a man’s Goshen home but needed more room, and now has about three times the space.
Cutting Edge CNC fabricates wood and plastic parts for a variety of customers, about 85 percent of which are RV-related, Eash said.
“We’re anticipating in about a month it will be growing quite strongly for us,” Eash said. “We’re getting a lot of new business in, and growing faster and faster.”
Eash bought the 3.75 acres for $108,000, according to court records.
“There was better pricing there because of the (receivership) situation,” he said. “We’re excited to be part of the community and try to bring new life to that area.”
Others who have reached sales agreements, according to court records, are:
- Delmar Miller, 64259 C.R. 37, who is buying two parcels for a combined $150,000.
- Batterytech LLC, owned by Mark Yoder, who is paying $220,000 for a 1.9-acre parcel.
- Forever Transport LLC, of Millersburg, is paying $20,000 for a 1-acre parcel and $65,000 for a 2-acre parcel.
One two-acre parcel, used as a landfill in the past, is too contaminated for re-use, even as a parking lot.
Town Council President Jim Winkler said the loss of Carriage did cost the town some property tax revenue, but PNC Bank has kept the taxes current. He said a single company had shown interest in the site at one point, but he likes the diversity of employers now setting up shop there.
“Multiple businesses promote a lot of growth,” Winkler said. “For us it was not just the taxes but to bring people back into the community. They’re in town using the gas stations and the restaurants. We want to try to have a steady growth rate in the town.”