Purchase of Ryland truss plant in works

National manufacturer plans to retain staff, increase production

April 06, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A national company has agreed to purchase the Ryland Building Systems plant, which manufactures roof and floor trusses, and increase production and staff at the New Windsor location.

Officials at Universal Forest Products, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., met with Ryland employees last week to announce the purchase of the 37-acre property on Route 31, a transaction it expects to complete by the end of the month. Terms for the sale of the 142,000-square-foot factory have not been disclosed. The asking price was $6.5 million.

Universal operates 75 manufacturing facilities in 64 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The New Windsor plant, the company's first in Maryland, will continue to supply products to Ryland Homes, parent of Ryland Building Systems.

"Ryland is a small customer of ours now, and we hope now to make it a large customer in the near future," said Charles Felix, Universal's senior vice president of development.

Acquiring the New Windsor plant "enables us to continue expanding our nationwide manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing demand for engineered wood products," said William G. Currie, Universal's chief executive officer, in a news release.

To concentrate on residential construction and mortgage financing, Ryland Homes, one of the country's largest homebuilders, has been selling its manufacturing plants in the last few years, including ones in North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. The Maryland location, which has been on and off the market for several years, was its only plant remaining in the United States.

Good business sense

"Building homes and developing communities are our core business competencies while Universal's expertise is manufacturing and distributing engineered wood products, so selling Ryland's remaining manufacturing facility made good business sense for both companies and our employees," Kipling W. Scott, president of Ryland's North Region, said in the news release.

Shoffner Industries, a Universal subsidiary, will operate the New Windsor plant, which at its peak during the building boom of the 1980s ran two shifts daily and employed about 120 people. Modular homes also were manufactured at the site at that time.

Carroll Shoffner, president of the building components company, predicted significant increases in production within a short time, although he admitted he faces stiff competition from other area components manufacturers.

"We plan to do a lot more business there than they were previously doing," said Shoffner.

Employees pleased

That will mean an increase in employees. now numbering 65, he said. Shoffner anticipates retaining all the Ryland employees working at the plant, he said.

"The employees were all pleased that we had purchased the building," said Shoffner. "We are always looking for good people, and there is no problem if they want to stay there and work."

The North Carolina company, which operates roof and floor truss plants in Georgetown, Del., Chesapeake, Va., and 14 other locations in the mid-Atlantic region, had long been looking for an outlet in Maryland, Shoffner said. About three months ago, the search brought him to Carroll County.

"The geography was just right for us," Shoffner said. "We do a lot of business in the D.C. and Baltimore areas, and we are expanding our market to do more in Maryland and Pennsylvania. We have never started a plant or bought an existing one that we did not make a success."

The proximity of a railroad -- the Maryland Midland Railway Co.'s line is nearby -- was a significant factor in the decision, he said. Most of the plant's raw material will arrive by rail, and its products could be shipped by rail to the Port of Baltimore.

The sale will be an economic boon to the county and to the town, officials said. It could increase Carroll's industrial tax base and employment in the county, which sees more than 50 percent of its available work force employed outside the county.

The county has been aggressively marketing the property for four years, said John T. "Jack" Lyburn, county director of economic development.

`Plus for Carroll County'

"We are thrilled that the Ryland plant will still be used as a wood products engineering facility," said Lyburn. "The fact that Universal Forest Products will be able to expand its market by purchasing Ryland is a plus for Carroll County."

New Windsor offers public water and sewerage and low taxes, said Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr.

"This sale will be really good for our area, and it shows that our industrial park remains viable," said Gullo. "Ryland has been a great corporate neighbor throughout the years, and we hope we will have the same relationship with this company."

Universal officials met with Ryland employees at the plant Thursday and plan several more meetings as it completes the sale, Felix said.

"We will send our staff to make the conversion and let the employees know who we are," he said.

Pub Date: 4/06/99

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