Century Tables Industrial Building Lease For Cotton Storage; Mayor Says Another Company With 21 Jobs Is Interested

August 18, 2020

The Century Town Council Monday night delayed a decision on leasing a town-owned industrial building after Mayor Henry Hawkins said another company promising more jobs is interested.

South Alabama Gin Company, doing business as West Florida Gin in Walnut Hill, proposed a lease of $6,000 per month for five years with an option to renew the contract for an additional five years. They want to occupy the building by October 1 and estimated that six employees would be associated with the the warehousing and distribution of cotton bales.

The gin company was the only company to respond after the town advertised for several weeks seeking lease proposals.

Hawkins said Monday night that he had been contacted just hours earlier by FloridaWest, the region’s economic development organization, about a company that is interested in the building and wants to see it on Thursday. Hawkins said the manufacturing company would bring about 21 new jobs to Century.

“I don’t plan to put cotton storage in Century…cotton out there is not going to help Century,” councilman Luis Gomez said, adding that he believes the town can lease the building to a company that will bring at least 10 jobs to town.

A heated discussion ensued with Gomez and Council President Ann Brooks yelling over each other at times. That made portions of the discussion hard to understand with council members participating by phone or Zoom due to the pandemic.

A motion by Gomez to reject the West Florida Gin proposal failed due to the lack of a second, and a motion by council member James Smith also failed with no second to table a decision on the cotton lease. Gomez made a second motion to reject the cotton gin lease, and it again failed due to the lack of a second.

Smith made a second motion to table action on the lease proposal until the council’s next meeting. It passed 4-0 with Brooks and council member Brenda Spencer expressing that they were “reluctantly” voting in favor. Council member Sandra McMurray Jackson did not take part in the meeting.

Hawkins will meet with FloridaWest and the manufacturing company on Thursday, and the council will readdress the building lease at a special meeting next Monday night.

According to Interim City Manager Vernon Prather, the council cannot simply lease the building to the manufacturing company. Instead, they would be required to reject the West Florida Gin offer and advertise again for formal proposals, much like a bid process.

A previous lease offer by the gin was rejected by the Century Town Council.

In May 2019, West Florida Gin Manager Robert Earl Godwin and businessman Larry Baxley, who were in the process of setting up North Escambia Warehouse and Storage, LLC, made a preliminary lease-to-own offer on the town-owned building  at $4,000 per month for five years, for a total of $240,000. The company offered an $8,000 deposit, pay the first month’s rent in advance, and pay for any upgrades to the building. At the end of the lease term, they would have had the opportunity to buy the building for $100. The building would have been used primarily for cotton storage.

Known as the Helicopter Technology Building — named for the defunct company that was based there — the 40,390 square foot building  has been empty since 2008. The town is still footing the bill for utilities, insurance, maintenance and other costs for the vacant property, and they are looking to turn it into a positive cash flow and create jobs along the way.

In 2017, the building was appraised for $550,000 with a fair market rent of $80,000 per year ($6,667 per month). The office and warehouse space has full climate control, sprinkler system, newer HVAC and energy efficient lighting.


14 Responses to “Century Tables Industrial Building Lease For Cotton Storage; Mayor Says Another Company With 21 Jobs Is Interested”

  1. Citizen on August 19th, 2020 3:36 pm

    Bring the motion again and lease it before you get sued again..dummies

  2. Bob on August 19th, 2020 10:44 am

    This message is for BAMA!!!

    You are right on two things:

    1) TOC is a joke and NorthEscambia.Com is you source for all the details!!!

    2) ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!

  3. Lease on August 18th, 2020 3:44 pm

    West Florida Gin was the only company to respond after the town of Century advertised for several weeks seeking lease proposals. Now we get picky like there’s actually choices to consider? Take the money West Florida is offering, and be glad for the income. How hard is this to understand? Don’t make it difficult. The answer is an easy one. And be glad West Florida Gin is an established company that actually would be able to pay the lease.

  4. just sayin on August 18th, 2020 3:34 pm

    A very wise old man once said that “A bird in hand was better than two in the bush”

  5. chris on August 18th, 2020 2:01 pm

    The town of Century makes Mayberry RFD seem intelligent.

  6. DK on August 18th, 2020 1:43 pm

    This is what happens when you put Clowns in charge of a town,there is not anyone else interested period.These clowns cannot make money off of a deal with the Cotton Gin it’s plain as day .

  7. Jim Stanton on August 18th, 2020 12:17 pm

    New flash for Luis Gomez and Rafael Lopez it’s not about cotton, it’s about money. Century can’t even afford to pay it’s bills and you have local business people willing to pay $6,000 a month, for a building that has been vacant for years. No wonder Century is the laughing stock of this region. As for the mayor and his being contacted just hours before the meeting about a possible offer. Mr. mayor seems as this Florida West has already fooled you once so remember what they say, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

  8. Chelleepea on August 18th, 2020 12:14 pm

    Here’s the bigger picture……the cotton gin already employs people from Century and surrounding areas when cotton season comes around…..its seasonal but pays well. Council should ask them to hire more from Century whenever possible.

    They are an established business so they won’t go belly up after a a couple years like a startup might.

    Take the monthly payment and build a smaller building in the industrial park that will be more affordable and attractive to smaller industries.

  9. Hmmm on August 18th, 2020 11:22 am

    The Town of Century would be money ahead if they had just GIVEN the building to the cotton gin years ago, never mind they are offering a ton of money for the lease. I hate to break it to Gomez, but if a manufacturing plant comes, it probably won’t be any of his buddies getting jobs there. If it’s any kind of skill positions, it will mostly be people from Pensacola getting the jobs. Lease it while you can or it will be sitting empty years from now, costing Century thousands of dollars a year.

    It boggles my mind how some of these people get elected…

  10. Bama on August 18th, 2020 10:47 am

    The mayor and council or whatever they call them selves are the laughing stock of the entire area. I usually read the articles just to see what stupid thing they have done now.
    They had a chance to at least have a little help with paying maintenance on the building and turned it down. Democrats in action.

  11. Rafael lopez on August 18th, 2020 10:33 am

    There just seems to be a better location for cotton storage. Hardly any well paying jobs would seem to come out of this. Higher waged positions with a reputable company would be ideal to help boost/revitalize the community. Economic impact versus it’ll do…. hard decision to turn down short money but perhaps there’s a bigger vision brewing.

  12. Willis on August 18th, 2020 6:31 am

    Hopefully no airline tickets to get someone here .

    Hate for anyone to be a lie again.

  13. Oversight on August 18th, 2020 6:29 am

    “I don’t plan to put cotton storage in Century…cotton out there is not going to help Century,” councilman Luis Gomez said…”

    Well I hate to break the news to Century town council, but agriculture pays quite a few bills around North Escambia, and it can take that albatross building off the town’s debt roll for them. But you know how the saying goes, you can’t fix stupid.

  14. Citizen on August 18th, 2020 2:24 am

    Florida West pulled the same thing before and didn’t come through. They were just to try to get approved at the county for the yearly budget and still cost the town for a new appraisal, then nothing happened.
    TOC should have taken the offer to lease the building the first time and now the second time imo. Sounds like B/S. I’m sure Mrs Brooks was the smartest in the room. Unfortunately many democrats don’t seem to know how to run a town for the bottom line.
    They went through the proper channels for a bid and should have taken the timely offer.

    I doubt Florida West contacted the Major actually. He lied about economic development before with the plane tickets, ran concerts at the helicopter building and we didn’t forget the guys who said they were gonna run an organic farm.

    Seriously people. Vote Boutwell and Brooks.. These other guys may mean well but they are make moronic business decisions.