There are plans for county's “White Elephant”

Home builder, artist look to milo factory as possible business sites

by C.F. David

The Cimarron Industrial Authority met on Monday night. The group is the board of authority over the old milo plant in southeast Boise City, and at least two businesses are interested in expanding on the two-acre site.

The structure was developed in the early 1970s as a factory to refine milo sorghum; when the business fell through, the county took possession with a bond issuance of $660 thousand.

The board made a decision to advertise for sealed bids for a new contract to replace the contract with Mark Stephenson that expired on July 1. A provision of the bidding process would include that insurance must be carried on the structure.

Should a business decide to make the old factory their home, the price is right; last year's lease totaled $1,812 per year, or about $151 per month. The funds go directly into the Cimarron County Sinking Fund to retire the bond passed in 1978 and due to pay out in 2007.

The board also made the decision to investigate the legalities of having all loose materials, i.e . iron, tin, etc. removed from the site.

Board Chairman Joe Berry told the group that two different individuals had expressed an interest in bringing factories to the building; one would produce insulated panels used in home construction and employ an estimated 10 people.

The other interested party would produce frames for artwork, and if the potential were fulfilled perhaps employ as many as 40 people in two shifts.

Home construction

Butch Heppard, of Cripple Creek, Colo., grew up in Cimarron County's west end. He wants to bring a factory to build structurally insulated panels used in home construction. He plans to bring himself and one other individual as management, and hire locally eight more employees at an annual salary of $17 thousand plus health benefits.

“When we get in full production, we'll have about 20 employees on two shifts,” Heppard said.

Asked if, since the business will need products not available locally if local businesses will see any profit, Heppard replied that he planned to use, as much as possible local merchants, craftsmen such as welders, and local trucking firms.

Asked why he thought of “coming home ”Heppard said, “Well it's one of those things...I know the labor is good there [Cimarron County]. And that area needs something for its economy. We think Boise City needs a boost.”

Heppard explained that he'd been using the insulated panels in his Colorado home construction business since 1996.

He continued that the technology was created by government scientists in the 1950s; however since labor and lumber were cheap, it took 50 years for the technology to become profitable.

“Now you have labor that costs $25 per hour and a crooked two-by-four will cost you a buck forty-nine. We've come into our own,” he added.

“When I started, I was building log home and I needed a more affordable roof system,” Heppard explained.

Heppard added that when he got the panel factory at full production he envisioned shipping three to four hundred homes per year with net sales of $8.5 million.

However, there is a fly in the ointment, and it's a big one. Heppard needs seed money.

“I'm talking to the regional community development in Guymon; but I'm also looking for private investors. We're shy about $500 thousand in being able to build this plant,” Heppard said.

Art frame factory

Jeff and Kim Gibson of Western rural Cimarron County, also have ambitions for the old milo factory; they wish to produce frames for prints being produced from Kim's artwork for Wal-Mart.

“My wife's an artist, and she has sold three religious prints to Wal-Mart, “ Gibson said.

Gibson adds that the prints are religious in nature and that the marketing giant has asked her to continue the line, initially be sold in 32 stores and nationwide if the sales support the move.

“They [Wal-Mart] are giving us time to get up and running,” Gibson said.

“We are also talking to Hobby Lobby, K-Mart and two different religious books stores,” he added.

Once created from Kim's original art, the prints will ship into Boise City from two points, one in Oklahoma, the other California; they'll be framed here and shipped regionally to 32 Wal-Mart and Sam's stores.

“If it gets going like it looks as if it will, we'll need two shifts of 19 employees and a supervisor each just to keep up,” Gibson explained. “We feel like at full production we'll be shipping 145 thousand prints every two weeks if we get K-Mart and Hobby Lobby.”

Asked where he'll find forty people, Gibson laughed.

“I'm sure we'll find them somewhere. We'll be looking for stable people; the 19 employees on each shift we'll start off paying about $10 per hour. The supervisor about $20.

The Gibsons have been in a planning mode for their factory for about two years and are excited about the opportunity to perhaps utilize an existing structure.

“Our projection was to work for about six months and then build our own building there in Boise City. I had no idea that there was property that we might use for this kind of price, ”Gibson said.

Boise City News, P.O. Box 278
105 W. Main Street
Boise City, Oklahoma 73933-0278
Phone: 580 544-2222
Fax: 580 544-3281
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