ROGERSVILLE -- For five years, the 40,000-square-foot speculative building at Rogersville Business Park stood silent and empty.
That started changing in December when Custom Synthetic Fibers announced plans to lease the Shoals Economic Development Authority-owned building.
Since that time, the building has undergone a different look. It now is full of products and equipment and teeming with activity from the 50 workers for the company that turns recycling polymer waste into recycled fibers.
It also is twice its original size.
"It took patience, and what we got is better than anything we could have ever dreamed of," Rogersville Mayor Richard Herston said during a Monday afternoon celebration and open house of the now 80,000-square-foot facility.
A variety of products can come out of the plant's conversions. Pillows, comforters, vehicle insulation, furniture, disposable gowns, commercial envelopes and air filters are among examples company officials mentioned during tours of the facility Monday. Even the straps and wrapping used to transport the materials become recycled.
"That's why this business is so big, is all the products you can get out of it," plant manager Mike Lee said. "Stuff that would have gone into the landfill, we recycle."
With the success of this building, Shoals Economic Development Authority officials already are pursuing a location for its next speculative building. The one Custom Synthetic Fibers is in was the second one, with the first one nearby in the business park and currently occupied by K.T. Engineering, SEDA President Forrest Wright said.
The SEDA board approved dedicating $550,000 toward the next building, which will be 30,000 square feet and about 36 feet tall at the eaves.
Wright commended Rogersville residents and officials for understanding that the right fit was needed. That came along about a year ago when Custom Synthetic officials saw the building while driving along the U.S. 72 following a tour of its facilities in Athens.
"That is a testament to the patience of the people of Rogersville and the surrounding community," Wright said. "They never asked, 'What are you doing?' They always asked, 'What can we do to help?'"
Joseph Ku, chief executive officer for Custom Synthetic, said the plant and community have been perfect fits for the company.
"We're so thankful to so many of you who have been with us from the beginning to this day," Ku said. "We currently employ about 50 people and we're going to grow to 80 very soon, hopefully by next year."
State Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, envisions a long relationship between the town and company.
"In my opinion, there's nobody greater we could have landed than Custom Synthetic Fibers," Greer said. "I'm looking forward to the date when the plant can double again."