The country is in the midst of a significant recession, but that’s not stopping Larry Stone from making a significant investment in his grain storage and steel stud manufacturing company, SCAFCO Corp.
The Spokane City Council on Monday voted 4-1 to accept Stone’s $2.1 million bid to purchase 48 acres of the former Playfair horse track in East Central Spokane.
SCAFCO isn’t immune from the downturn. The company employs about 200 people – down from about 300 during the company’s boom years in 2007 and 2008.
Even so, Stone said the Playfair deal pencils out using SCAFCO’s 2005 production numbers.
“Everyone’s just terribly frightened of doing any construction,” Stone said in an interview last week. “The good news is that it’s a great time to build in terms of cost.”
SCAFCO will move its steel stud plant from its factory near Interstate 90 and Sprague Avenue. Stone said the company will maintain its grain bin factory in Spokane Valley for the foreseeable future. SCAFCO will sell or lease the rest of the property as the Playfair Business & Industrial Park.
The city bought Playfair in 2004 to build a sewage plant with Spokane County. But negotiations with the county soured, and the county decided to build its own plant elsewhere.
In the deal approved Monday, the city will sell the land at about half the price it paid per acre. The city is keeping about 15 acres of the original site for a storm water system.
Councilman Bob Apple, who cast the dissenting vote, said the city should wait for the economy to improve.
“I’m prohibited by state law from gifting public money,” Apple said. “It just to me looks like a situation that one could accuse (the city) of gifting public money.”
When the city first tried to sell the land last year, SCAFCO met a $5.1 million minimum bid but demanded that the city pay for road and other improvements to the site. That deal faltered as the economy declined, and the city offered the land without setting a minimum price. In the new deal, SCAFCO will pay for the infrastructure. No other party bid for the full acreage.
Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said considering infrastructure costs, SCAFCO’s current deal is a few hundred thousand dollars less than the offer last year. Most council members said the sooner the land gets on the tax rolls, the better.
“It’s a great company to have,” said Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin. “Nobody else is coming up to the plate, and I’m tired of seeing that land just sit there with nothing.”
Stone said SCAFCO needs more space, and he prefers moving closer to the heart of the city.
“I love the fact that I’m going to have a shorter commute,” Stone said.