For three years, the former Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. plant on Sylvester Road east of Albany has stood silently as a reminder of better economic times.
Built first to make Firestone tires and then later sold to Cooper for manufacture of its tires, the massive facility was an easy-to-see indicator of the general economic health of the Albany area. When the lights were on, employees’ cars filled the lot and tires were being built, it meant that more than 1,000 people were working and earning wages, helping to drive the local economy.
When its manufacturing operations were shuttered in 2008, the impact on the metro area and region was severe. While the loss of those jobs isn’t the sole reason the five-county metro Albany region has had double-digit unemployment for some time now — the most recent number in August was at 10.8 percent — it has contributed.
So it came as good news Wednesday that an Illinois real estate company has enough confidence in the location to invest $8.5 million in its purchase, a development that was first reported on our website, albanyherald.com.
Ray Kaye, executive vice president with the purchasing company, Hilco Real Estate LLC of North Brook, Ill., which is doing business here as HRE Albany LLC, says plans are to keep Cooper on as a tenant for its distribution center and that Hilco is already working with prospective tenants for the rest of the facility, which now covers more than 1 million square feet.
Part of the facility that the company sees as unusable will be demolished and redeveloped into something that makes more sense to businesses.
“Our goal is to look at properties and find ways to add value so that it benefits industry and benefits the community,” Kaye said.
Converting purchases such as this factory into facilities that are appealing to business and industry is what Hilco says it does. Seeing activity again at this high-visibility site would be a good psychological boost for an area, and every job created there would be a job in the right direction for our metro area and region.