The Canadian RV dealer who tried to buy Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.’s La Grande, Ore., plant has cast a glance at the bankrupt company’s Pendleton site.
Craig Little, owner of Arbutus RV & Marine Sales on Vancouver Island, offered $1.8 million to buy the 79,000-square-foot La Grande plant. But Little lost out during a sale hearing and auction May 13 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside, Calif. Ron Nash, owner of the La Grande-based RV maker Northwood Manufacturing, bought the property with a bid of $2.05 million.
During a phone interview Wednesday (May 27), Little said Fleetwood has approached him about its Pendleton property, and Tracy Bosen, local economic development director, has discussed it with him as well, according to Pendleton’s East Oregonian.
But so far, there’s only has been talk.
“At the moment, we haven’t got a bid in, let me put it that way,” Little said.
Fleetwood Enterprises shut down its trailer manufacturing division in early March, closing plants in La Grande and Pendleton and laying off more than 400 workers between the two sites. Shortly after announcing the closures, Fleetwood declared bankruptcy.
Little said he knew Northwood was likely to make the move, but he expressed disappointment as to why. He said it seemed as though Northwood, which already has a plant close to the Fleetwood site, is just trying to keep a competitor from locating nearby.
“I’m not sure if that’s the best thing for La Grande, but I understand the business decision,” Little said. “We would have liked to have been a serious employer of that area, for sure.”
Little said he even had a team in place and had arranged for some of the former Fleetwood employees in Pendleton to join the La Grande operation.
Northwood makes trailers, fifth-wheels and truck campers in a plant in the Union County Airport industrial park. The company also recently built a facility for manufacturing trailer axles and chassis.
Northwood wasted little time in getting its new acquisition operating, beginning production May 19 of new towable products. Reports indicate the company brought in some of its workers, but also hired back about 100 former Fleetwood workers and a dozen managers.
Bosen said there has been “considerable interest” in the Fleetwood property in Pendleton. But, as with anything else, the real proof will be when someone puts signature to paper.
The Pendleton facility is on about 24 acres with an assessed value of about $5.47 million and a real market value about $20,000 more. The site has two large manufacturing facilities of almost 100,000 square feet each.
While the property “has a lot going for it,” Bosen also said there are issues compounding any easy decisions.
First off, the property is set up for making recreational vehicles, and RV makers have been going out of business. And the bankruptcy adds another layer, he said. Once the property is in receivership, a bankruptcy court judge will have to take Fleetwood’s creditors into consideration when regarding the property.
For his part, Little said he is now on to “Plan B.”