By Lindell J. Kay | email@example.com | 252-265-8117
SPRING HOPE — Known by locals as the old Masonite Plant, a 213-acre manufacturing site in rural southern Nash County has been a ghost town for two decades, but its sale could breathe new life into the area.
The property at 518 S. Old Franklin Road, just outside Spring Hope, is in the process of being purchased by Power Resource Group, a biofuels company headquartered in Farmville.
“I don’t know all the details, I know it’s being purchased,” said Town Manager Jae Kim. “I know it would be good for not just Spring Hope, but the entire area.”
Nash County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robbie Davis said he’s aware of the purchase, but nothing concerning the property has been brought before commissioners.
Currently valued at $948,000, the land is owned by Select Bank and Trust and represented in real estate deals by Stone Auction and Realty Co. A for-sale sign at the site states the property is “under contract,” which typically means a seller has accepted an offer from a buyer, but the sale hasn’t been completed.
PRG turns biomass into electricity, according to its website. Messages left with PRG executives weren’t returned in time for this story.
Kim said a new operation at the site could mean new business and possibly new homes, which would lead to additional tax revenue.
If the deal is finalized, PRG would be the second fuel industry company to purchase the property. Fourteen years ago, the Xethanol Corp., a publicly traded New York company, purchased the land for $1.5 million, according to records on file at the Nash County Tax Office.
Spring Hope Biofuels, a Xethanol subsidiary, announced in 2006 that it planned to build an ethanol plant at the site and would spend $50 million for construction and to bring the plant online.
Locals were optimistic back then as well. Then-Town Manager John Holpe said he expected the new business to be an asset to both the town and county as a whole, according to archived news reports.
The project languished for years. Xethanol came under scrutiny following reports that several major stockholders had been disciplined by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 2008, Xethanol rebranded itself as Global Energy Holdings Group only to declare bankruptcy in 2009, according to articles in the trade publication Biomass Magazine.
In 2011, representatives of Spring Hope Biofuels were still talking about building a plant at the site, but the investment figure had dropped to $28 million. In 2017, the property transferred to BHT Holdings and Development with no money changing hands. Select Bank took control of the land in December 2019 for $793,500, according to a combination of tax records, deeds and archived news reports.
Built in 1972, the Masonite plant produced fiberboard used in cabinetry and furniture creation. International Paper purchased the plant in 1988. The plant remained a major employer in the area until being shuttered in 1998, putting 191 employees out of work.