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Grove puts property back on market

February 25, 2002|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

A plan by the Franklin County Area Development Authority to buy and convert the former Grove Worldwide Training Center into a conference center has hit a snag, an Authority member said Friday.

Carol Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, said the cost of the $14 million project increased to $15 million because of federal regulations governing wages for workers building the project.

The Authority is a government agency. The contractor has to pay workers at the prevailing wages set by the federal government, which are significantly higher than those paid by private contractors, Henicle said.

Grove officials, fearing the deal may fall through, put the 63-acre property back on the market.

Franklin county officials had negotiated a deal to pay Grove $3 million for the facility. Another $11 million is needed to turn it into a 95-bed conference center. The money would come from the sale of tax-exempt bonds.

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L. Michael Ross, president of the Development Authority, said Friday that the bonds will be harder to sell because the extra cost adds to the risk for investors.

The training center's nine buildings cover 42,000 square feet. Features include a modern kitchen, a 120-seat main dining room and a 50-seat secondary dining room.

Grove built the compound in 1981 as a corporate training and executive meeting retreat. The company cut costs in 2000 by closing the center and moving the training operations to its headquarters in Shady Grove, Pa.

The conference center would bring in corporate executives and companies from the mid-Atlantic Region for conferences, meetings and retreats.

The authority was negotiating with a Maryland management company to run the center. The company would hire its own workers.

The management company said it couldn't make a profit if the number of rooms is reduced.

Henicle said the Authority is talking with two other management firms in an effort to reduce the cost of the project.

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