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Niagara Bottling, LLC Facility and Site Search Case Study

 

Background


In September of 2010, Hart Corporation was engaged to represent Niagara Bottling, LLC in its search to locate a new east coast manufacturing and distribution facility. The tenant representation assignment came through their Hart Group International Affiliate in Ontario, California, Lee & Associates.

Niagara Bottling, LLC is a family-owned private-label bottled water manufacturer headquartered in Ontario, California. The 48 year-old company bottles water for customers such as Wal-Mart, Costco, Lowes and Food Lion. Since 1963, the company has grown to operate nine manufacturing plants around the country. Niagara Bottling, LLC was seeking its tenth plant location to serve the mid-Atlantic region and take pressure off of their east coast facilities located in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Orlando, Florida.

The Challenge


The Carolinas/Virginias regional office of Hart Corporation was tasked with identifying all available industrial buildings in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina ranging from 200,000 square feet to 500,000 square feet with minimum 24’ clear ceiling heights that could accommodate their infrastructure requirements. This included process water capabilities at the site of one million gallons per day and process sewer capabilities of 500,000 gallons per day. The identified logistical hot spots for freight costs included Roanoke, Virginia; Wytheville, Virginia; High Point, North Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina. The initial available industrial building search included thirty-nine facilities for evaluation. These were eventually culled down to twelve available industrial facilities that met Niagara’s infrastructure requirements.

The Process


The first phase of the project included inspections of those twelve available industrial facilities in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina by Niagara’s director of economic development and community relations along with their vice president of operations and general counsel. Hart Corporation brought in state, regional and local economic development officials at each location.

From the initial round of inspections, eight of the twelve available industrial facilities “made the cut” for further evaluation. Additionally, Hart Corporation identified six build-to-suit sites in the Charlotte and Winston-Salem markets for further consideration given Niagara’s “luxury” of time before they had to be in production.

Of particular note in this project is that Niagara’s requirement called for a facility that was not just a filling operation and distribution facility, but also a fully-vertically-integrated plastics manufacturing plant requiring significant electrical demand. Niagara planned to manufacture their own bottles with a blow molding operation, and their own caps with an injection molding line. They also planned a filling operation using municipal water, a reverse osmosis filter, as well as spring water, with packaging and labeling onsite. Employment was projected to reach sixty-five to eighty employees within the first two years of production with capital investment in machinery and equipment projected to be approximately $50 million.

The second round of building inspections and site evaluations narrowed the choice of available buildings down to three properties in Fort Mill, South Carolina; Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Lincolnton, North Carolina. Further site evaluations narrowed down their choices for a build-to-suit opportunity to locations in Rock Hill, South Carolina; Charlotte, North Carolina; Lincolnton, North Carolina; Statesville, North Carolina and Mooresville, North Carolina. The optimal size building for Niagara’s planned operation was approximately 350,000 square feet with a building footprint of 350’ wide by 1,000’ in length. Needless to say, other than a few big-city multi-tenant distribution facilities, there were no facilities on the market in their geographic territory that fit the dimensional requirements they requested. The three remaining existing industrial facilities kept for further evaluation had significantly different dimensions; however, Niagara Bottling, LLC could make those structures work for their anticipated operations.

For the next round of evaluations, Hart Corporation submitted an RFP on Niagara’s project to the architectural and general contracting community for design-build team interviews, as a comparison between a build-to-suit for the selected sites and a retrofit of the three available industrial facilities. Based on their market knowledge in the region, Hart Corporation selected six design-build teams for Niagara’s management team and engineering staff to interview. From those six design-build teams, three were further selected to evaluate the five sites under consideration for a build-to-suit project. In this manner, Hart Corporation was able to direct free site evaluations by the design-build teams, eliminating some of the uncertainties associated with each site, along with providing a cost analysis between the five sites for site preparation and grading.

At this point it was paramount that while Hart Corporation was directing Niagara’s site search, that they also maintained sites and buildings in the states of North Carolina and South Carolina for further evaluation. This gave Niagara the advantage in incentive negotiations between the two states as well as incentive negotiations between the various communities “still in play.” Hart Corporation maintained a high degree of communication between the state, regional and local economic development entities throughout the process to give Niagara the best possible chance of negotiating incentives at their desired site while leaving a strong positive impression with the two competing state economic development entities as well as the competing communities.

In May of 2011, Niagara’s project began to unfold by eliminating all but one vacant industrial building located in the Union Cross Business Park in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The sites for further evaluation were whittled down to locations in Rock Hill, South Carolina; Mooresville, North Carolina and Statesville, North Carolina.

At that point, it seemed Niagara would gravitate toward the available existing facility in Winston-Salem given their newfound time constraints, since the project’s decision making process had lasted through the spring of 2011. Nonetheless, Hart Corporation was convinced that they could still make their timeframe on a build-to-suit for occupying the facility in March or April 2012. However, incentive negotiations and land negotiations would have to take place within the next month and final decisions would need to be made on selecting a construction management firm to move the process along more quickly as Niagara’s engineering staff was “spread thin”.

With Hart Corporation’s knowledge of the construction management firms in the area, they arranged for five firms to interview with Niagara’s management team during the first week of June. Upon completion of those interviews, Hart Corporation and Niagara selected Keith Corporation for the construction management process as well as Merriman Schmitt Architects and Choate for the design and construction of the facility. Internally, the decision was made to move forward with the site in Mooresville, North Carolina.

Conclusion


At that point, Hart Corporation introduced Niagara to the law firm of Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice for their assistance in conducting incentive negotiations at the state and local level along with finalizing the legal work on the acquisition of the site in Mooresville’s business park.

On June 22, 2011, Niagara Bottling, LLC, Hart Corporation and the North Carolina Department of Commerce announced that Niagara Bottling, LLC would construct and open a new plant in the Mooresville Business Park in Mooresville, North Carolina of 310,000 square feet on 79.81 acres.

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