Although Wellco shoe plant in Waynesville is closing, the community will be spared the blight of another vacant industrial site.
Haywood Vocational Opportunities, which manufactures and assembles medical supplies, is buying the site to expand its own operations. HVO, which currently has 320 full-time employees, hopes to add 75 more within two years at the Wellco site.
“This certainly softens the blow,” said Mark Clasby, Haywood County’s Economic Development Director. “Obviously you hate to lose any jobs anytime, but fortunately in this situation, HVO has been a great success story for Haywood County.”
An expansion was already in the works for HVO. HVO was planning to buy a site in the Beaverdam Industrial Park near Canton, but will now utilize the Wellco site instead.
“It is very conducive to upfitting, upgrading and renovating to meet our needs,” said George Marshall, CEO of HVO.
The Wellco site is less than half a mile from HVO’s current operation. That proximity was the main factor in the decision, Marshall said.
HVO’s main product is medical drapes used during surgery. The company also assembles surgical kits — up to 800 a day — customized with the suite of instruments a particular doctor might need. The new space will be used to expand HVO’s production capacity and grow new product lines, Marshall said.
Clasby is grateful HVO stepped in to buy the Wellco site, even if it meant backing out of the deal in the industrial park. When it comes to courting new industry to set up shop, Clasby feels the 10-acre graded site in an industrial park on the side of Interstate 40 will eventually find a new taker. As for the old Wellco site, Clasby fears it would have been impossible to recruit a new tenant.
“Manufacturing companies are not interested in old buildings with lower ceilings,” Clasby said.
“The Wellco property probably would not have a lot of interest from manufacturing industry,” Marshall agreed.