Typo may be to blame for missed rent
WOODBURY – A long-running saga between a Woodbury business and the industrial development board from which it rents took another challenging turn in February.
The seven-member Cannon County Industrial Development Board (IDB) voted to evict THC Select, a plastic injection molding company that makes food storage containers for hospitals across the country, after it failed to receive two months’ worth of rent.
THC officials, however, say those checks were mailed – but never cashed or returned to sender. Corbett Gibson, THC’s vice president of sales, said there was no communication between the two parties before the eviction plans progressed, and the matter could be chocked up to a simple typo, apparently, a mix up over the proper address to send those payments.
Sumner Bouldin, a Murfreesboro attorney who represents the IDB, drafted the eviction notice and said it was mailed to THC’s corporate office in Florida the week of Feb. 10. The notice asked for THC to vacate the building it occupies on Alexander Drive at the end of the month, but Randall Reid, chairman of the IDB, indicted that it wasn’t an absolute end all, be all, as long as the Cannon County group received its rent after all.
Rent for two months totals $11,000, plus applicable late fees, Bouldin said, much less, Reid claims, than what the building could be leased for based on outside studies.
“We are interested in a good, viable relationship with our customer,” Reid said. “We will do whatever it takes – short of giving the farm away, as small counties are accustomed to doing – to have them as a customer. We would like to see them have a long-time relationship here. Whether that will happen is up to them.”
Gibson, who is based in Nashville for THC Select, likewise said they also want a similar relationship with the IDB. He hinted that the issue was largely political, and that THC has been caught in the crossfire. As of press time, THC had received the eviction notice but was in the process of “concocting its response.” Gibson expressed extreme frustration with the situation. The matter, he said, hurts THC’s ability recruit talent inside and outside of Cannon County.
“It always seems like it’s something, and it’s going to always be a political tug of war with that building,” Gibson said. “I just wish we weren’t in the middle of it.”
THC Select first came to Woodbury in 2010 essentially on a gentleman’s agreement that promised at least one year free rent, among other incentives, negotiated mostly by County Executive Mike Gannon. It’s been a lot of back and forth since. Reid said the IDB didn’t receive any rent payments until after the two parties wound up in federal court after THC filed suit in 2012.
Through meetings with a mediator, a lease agreement was finally established. Gibson said THC Select’s December check was cashed, but January’s – and February’s, he presumed – had neither been cashed nor returned. He said there was some confusion about where the checks were to be mailed, which was to the IDB’s accounting firm, Matlock Clements. Reid hand-delivered a letter to the Woodbury plant in January asking payments be sent to 207 Glenis Drive, Suite A, Murfreesboro. Matlock Clements’ actual address is 270 Glenis Drive.
Gibson said there aren’t any current plans to vacate the Woodbury location, which is running at times with less than 20 employees. For a business, that’s an often expensive and logistically difficult endeavourer. Although he did add that, “this latest round casts some serious doubts as to whether or not THC is willing to stay,” he said.
THC Select did receive a private apology for the mix up from the IDB board.
Regardless of the end result of the latest IDB action, both Gibson and Reid talked of lessons learned. Gibson said for THC Select, going forward, rent checks will likely be sent certified mail or where someone would have to sign on the receiving end. Reid gave his thoughts on what other IDB boards can do to protect themselves from similar situations.
“Industrial boards need to be very, very careful. They need to do a thorough background search on all tenants. That was not done in our situation here,” Reid said. “We were hungry for somebody to come into our empty building (in 2010). It didn’t matter who they were, (the goal was to) just get them in the building. And that’s the wrong thing to do.”
The Cannon County Industrial Development Board meets again Tuesday, March 4. Bouldin said he expects the THC situation will be discussed.