To the highest bidder

Published 8:30 am Friday, June 4, 2010

FRANKLIN—The property and heavy machinery of the former Franklin Equipment Co., as well as its furniture, fixtures and equipment, is up for auction.

Atlantic Asset & Management Group, an asset management firm in Virginia Beach, will hold the auction at Paul D. Camp Community College Regional Workforce Development Center from Tuesday, June 8, to Thursday, June 10, beginning at 9:30 a.m. daily. The auction will also be simulcast over the Internet.

Franklin Equipment was founded in the city in 1962 and manufactured diesel logging tractors, primarily for the timber harvesting industry. The company, which once employed about 75, closed and filed for bankruptcy in January 2009.

According to Atlantic Asset, the former Franklin Equipment factory in Isle of Wight County and a parcel in downtown Franklin will be up for auction at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“The main factory location is 34 acres and it’s in kind of a unique spot, adjacent to International Paper,” William Summs, the president and chief executive officer for Atlantic Asset, said Thursday.

Summs said IP’s decision to close the paper mill “was unfortunate for everybody, but there are some movements and something will happen with the (IP) property.”

The paper mill next door, which will close this summer, would drag down the price for the former tractor factory at 33551 Carver Road.

“In a good time, we’re looking at $7 to $10 million worth of property with the improvements and almost 200,000 square feet under roof,” Summs said. “But in this climate I would be tickled to death if it hit anywhere over $2 million. I’m hoping that it will do at least that, but it could do more.”

“We would hope that the opening bid would be in the $1.5 million range. It just depends on the crowd.”

Atlantic Assets will also put a vacant, 3.3-acre parcel at 217 E. 2nd Ave. up for auction. Franklin Equipment once had buildings on the site, but they were demolished after the 1999 flood.

“The trustee is thinking that parcel will sell in the $300,000 range, perhaps even $350,000 or $375,000,” Summs said. “Again, it’s pretty much earmarked to sell, so the crowd at the auction is going to determine what the price is.”

Heavy equipment — including belt grinders and gear shavers, sharpeners, hobbers and shapers — will also be auctioned.

“I think the equipment itself is going to stand on its own,” Summs said. “The machinery and equipment market has been steadily increasing in the last 45 to 60 days.”

Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said he doubted the city would bid on the 3.37-acre parcel in the downtown.

“We’ve had no discussion about it, so I do not know,” Councill said Thursday. “The subject has not even come up. But I don’t think the city has any interest in buying any of it. I think we would much rather prefer for it to go commercial.”

However, there would be issues with the site going from vacant to commercial.

“Getting sewer (service) there is a difficulty because it’s downhill from the sewage system,” Councill said. “It’s also in the floodplain. My guess is it’s not a very valuable piece of property. I’m not sure what its value is other than for a park or something like that.”

The Downtown Master Recovery Plan, a document drawn up for the city by K.W. Poore & Associates of Richmond in March 2000, envisioned adjacent land currently owned by IP and S.W. Rawls for community recreation and an interpretive river-walk.

“I think you can always keep that in the long-term plan,” Councill said. “But with the economy the way it is, nobody is spending any money on anything like that.

“We don’t have the money to do the walkway. But I think the idea of having a walking trail from Barrett’s Landing over to Second Avenue is still an idea that we would love to see pursued.”