FORT EDWARD — WL Plastics Corp. will not be coming to the former General Electric dewatering site, citing financial struggles related to the coronavirus pandemic.
WL Plastics Corp. CEO Mark Wason informed Washington County officials of the decision on Wednesday.
“Given the events of recent months, and in particular, the significant impact of COVID-19 on demand for our products, we have made the difficult decision to terminate the project. We have completed a deep analysis of the situation and have come to the conclusion that the project is no longer economically viable,” Wason wrote in a prepared statement.
The company was expected to build a polyethylene pipe manufacturing facility on the grounds.
WL Plastics Corp. is one of the largest manufacturers of polyethylene pipe in North America and is based out of Fort Worth, Texas. The plant would have been the company’s ninth operation.
“WL does not take this decision lightly and understands the impact that this decision will have on stakeholders in the community,” Wason said in the news release.
Wason went on to say the company appreciated the efforts of everyone on the local, state and national level that assisted in this project.
A little more than two weeks ago, the EPA announced one of the final hurdles for the project was completed with the transfer of the access road leading to the site to the Warren-Washington Industrial Development Agency.
The property was used when General Electric was dredging a 40-mile section of the upper Hudson River to remove PCBs. The EPA owned a portion of the road known as Lock 8 Way, which extends from near the former processing facility in the town of Fort Edward, north into the town of Kingsbury, where it ends near the intersection with Route 196.
Hampton Supervisor Dave O’Brien, chairman of the Warren-Washington IDA, said WL’s decision to back out came as a surprise.
“It’s a big loss,” he said.
O’Brien said the company was re-evaluating its costs. It has a lot of its business in oil and gas, which has fallen off substantially. Terminating the project was very painful for them, he said.
“They are looking at what they have to do to make the company survive. This was a decision that came over the past week,” he said.
The Fort Edward project would have been a way to diversify their product line, but WL Plastics is not able to do it.
“They can’t invest money to expand,” he said.
He said the company was very honest and upfront about its intentions and was complimentary about the reception it received from Washington County.
“There was no hidden agenda. They were sincerely interested in making Fort Edward work. They thought this was a great facility. Unfortunately, things didn’t work the way they expected to,” he said.
O’Brien said the IDA is moving forward.
“The IDA is committed to doing what they can to help redevelop that property to make sure we get a good company to come in,” he said.
One of the issues the IDA will work on is access to the site. O’Brien said the problem is the roads have been owned by multiple different parties. It has been difficult to attract people to come to the site because they don’t have “durable access.”
For example, the state Canal Corp. does not have the ability to give permanent easements to companies. It can give licenses to travel on the road. However, companies have difficulty obtaining mortgages or clear title because they lack that durable access to get from point A to point B.
O’Brien said the IDA will work on that issue.
“We know this is a very valuable piece of property — very important to Fort Edward — both the village, town and the school, and to Washington County,” he said. “Yes, it’s a disappointment, but things happen for a reason. Sometimes, better things will come.”
The collapse of the project will also impact the Fort Edward Union Free School District, which is working on a second budget after its first failed to reach a supermajority required to exceed the tax cap.
Digital editor Adam Colver contributed to this report.
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