Anne Arundel County lost a white elephant and gained a major new employer yesterday when a distributor of Armstrong flooring bought the former Cardinal Industries modular home-building factory for nearly $7million.
J.J. Haines & Co. Inc. will move its corporate offices and wholesale distributing business from overcrowded Baltimore headquarters to the Glen Burnie plant, where it will employ 150 people, company officials said.
At a public foreclosure auction at the Aviation Drive plant, J.J. Haines bid $6.7 million for the 35-acre property and warehouse containing 225,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 16,000 square feet of two-story office space.
The Cardinal factory has stood idle for almost two years. In May 1989, the Ohio-based builder of modular apartments, motels and single-family homes -- once a pioneer and leader in the industry -- sought refuge from creditors in Ohio Bankruptcy Court.
Equitable Bank in Baltimore had moved to foreclose on loans totaling $10.5 million. The bank had financed Cardinal's Knight's Inn Motel in Laurel and the Glen Burnie factory, once the center pieceof major expansion plans.
About 50 people, including brokers and several former Cardinal employees, gathered yesterday in a warehouse the size of five football fields. It still contained Cardinal's tools, building materials and partially finished modular units, which willbe sold in a February auction.
Bidding took off at $2 million. A $6.5 million bid came from a real estate subsidiary of Maryland National Bank, which holds the $8 million mortgage on the property. The bank pulled the property out of Ohio bankruptcy proceedings to enable a Circuit Court-ordered foreclosure sale.
The highest bidder, J.J. Haines, employs 150 workers in Baltimore, about 15 percent of whom live in the county, said Mort Creech, executive vice president. Companyofficials met with employees for the first time yesterday afternoon to announce the move and don't know how many will transfer to Glen Burnie, said Frederick J. Reitz, distribution manager.
But it's likely that new jobs will open at the Glen Burnie plant, company President Lee Marston said. He could not say how many people will be hired orhow the company will modify the plant.
The plant distributes Armstrong products as far away as Scranton and Pittsburgh, Pa., New Jersey and Columbus, Ohio.
County officials welcomed the sale and the prospect for more jobs.
The company "will help diversify the make-up of businesses in the BWI area and provide an ideal site for future expansion," County Executive Robert R. Neall said.
Samuel Minnitte, director of the county Office of Economic Development, called J.J. Haines "one of the best companies in their field in the U.S."
Several companies, including manufacturers and real estate developers, had inquired about the Cardinal property, but J.J. Haines appeared the most serious, said Minnitte, who attended the auction.
"We were real thrilled when they bought the building today," said Lynn D. Palmer, business development representative in the economic development office.
"They've been looking for a place where they can expand and be for the next 40 or 50 years, for the long term. That impressed us."
Though it outbid its competitors, the company still faces hurdles, among them convincing the State Highway Administration to realign aproposed connector road between Hammonds Ferry and Hollins Ferry roads that will cut into Cardinal property.
J.J. Haines had considered moving to the Parkway Industrial Park near BWI airport, but settledon the Cardinal property because of its high ceilings and proximity to the airport, Creech said.
The distributor employs 320 people atnine centers in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.