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Hancock mulls how to bring new business and jobs to shuttered plant

August 08, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HANCOCK -- The town of Hancock is contemplating how to market the vacant Fleetwood Travel Trailers plant, hoping to draw new businesses and jobs.

Town officials met with county, state and federal representatives Friday at a Town Hall summit.

Participants suggested possible grants and heard cost estimates for refurbishing the plant, three years after Fleetwood shut down its Hancock operation.

They explored whether the town should lease or sell the roughly 85,000-square-foot plant on South Street. They debated if it would be better to have one large business there or a few small ones.

About a month ago, the town announced that former Hancock resident Stanley Fulton was donating $900,000 for the town to buy the former Fleetwood plant.

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Fleetwood was one of three major employers whose job cuts left the town reeling. London Fog and Rayloc are the other two.

The three companies cut close to 1,000 jobs held by people throughout the Tri-State region.

The first blow came in 1994, when the London Fog coat factory shut down.

Now, Hancock officials are trying to mount an economic comeback, focusing on the Fleetwood property, which is more than 20 acres.

"Getting jobs back to this community is what this is about," Mayor Daniel Murphy said Friday.

He went over a list of improvements the property needs.

The town got an estimate of $130,000 to replace fences and partition interior areas.

It would cost about $250,000 to replace the blacktop.

The cost to replace stripped-away copper wire is about $30,000.

Weeds and grass must be cut, and the residue of discharged fire extinguishers needs to be cleaned up.

Making the property attractive is important so it can be shown to potential buyers or tenants, Washington County Administrator Gregory Murray said.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, suggested that a mix of businesses would be more stable for the small community.

But Timothy Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said selling the building as a whole has greater appeal.

"That definitely opens you up to a lot more companies," he said.

Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, agreed, adding that it could be partitioned later.

Troxell said the plant will be among the properties the EDC advertises. He said it also will be publicized when the EDC takes prospective employers on a tour of the county, although the bus probably wouldn't go to Hancock.

Edwards later questioned excluding Hancock from the tour. He urged town officials to speak up and say, "We are part of Washington County."

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