Two Vacant Manufacturing Plants Get Tenants

There were a pair of stories from Bryan McKenzie in the Daily Progress last week that, hopefully, add up to a larger economic narrative. The area lost a lot of its admittedly small manufacturing base a decade ago, a result of NAFTA and manufacturing’s move to China. (Ix, Comdial, Technicolor, and Nimbus all come to mind readily.) Many hundreds of people were left unemployed, often with very specific sets of skills for which there were no reasonable replacements—a lot of these folks wound up, at best, underemployed. One of those was Comdial, which laid off its final 200 people in 2001. The company that bought the building wanted to turn it into a shopping mall, but that obviously never went anywhere.

Now comes the news that screen printer is moving into the Comdial building, having been looking around for a facility to expand into. is a custom, small-batch screen printer—you can submit a design online, and they’ll print and ship the shirts. They already have 32 employees in Albemarle, and intend to hire enough to get them up to about 100.

The other bit of good news is that the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Preston has a tenant: Indoor Biotechnologies, a local biotech company that specializes in allergens. They’re located on Harris Street now, so it’s a short move to their newly purchased building. Unlike the Comdial building, which sat idle for a decade, the Coke plant has only been out of commission since last year. Folks who have been in the building recently tell me that it’s an unusual building, since it was constructed explicitly for the purpose of bottling soda, receiving shipments of syrup, and sending out shipments of the finished product, meaning that it’s a bit too oddly laid out for most potential tenants. Apparently it’s right for Indoor Biotechnologies.

03/22 Update: The Comdial building is not entirely empty, it turns out—it was divided up. Googling for its address reveals a bunch of tenants: VAMAC, MSV, Roberts Home Medical, TransDigital, and Worrell Water Technologies all show up there. Although I imagine that will be the largest single employer there, they’ll hardly be alone.

8 thoughts on “Two Vacant Manufacturing Plants Get Tenants”

  1. Thanks for the update. The City thought that developers were going to jump at the change to buy the old Coca-Cola building and turn it into mixed-use, but the market will always determine its use. They need to re-zone Cherry Avenue, West Main Street and Preston Avenue to allow a greater flexabilty in uses other than Smart Urbanism.

  2. COMDIAL didn’t go belly-up because of NAFTA. They crashed and burned because of inept management and corporate malfeasance (in my opinion).

  3. Amen to Dahmius. WHile NAFTA may have contributed to Comdial’s demise here, it was overall lack of corporate foresight that did them in.

  4. That’s a fair point—”NAFTA” is an oversimplification. There are few businesses that perished solely due to the opening up of international trade. Generally there were other factors at play.

  5. Isn’t it the “comdial” building that was cut up into smaller spaces years ago (similar to Ix) and houses a lot of smaller businesses already? The water purification company and the office supplies company, transdigital, mailing services of virginia, etc? There are a lot of jobs already in that building.

  6. You know, Bill, you may well be right! Last I checked, MSV was out in Crozet, but that was a good half-decade ago. :) I do seem to recall, now that you mention it, seeing signs in the windows there. I’ll poke around on property records this evening and see what I can find. If you’re right—and I’ll bet you are—I’ll correct this accordingly.

  7. Bill, you’re quite right. I poked around on real estate sites, property records, and Google Maps and, yes, there are a handful of other businesses there, which is to say that it was wrong for me to classify the building as idle. I’ve appended a correction in which I explain the real state of things there. Thanks for pointing that out.

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