Murray Building

After sitting empty, part of the Murray Corporation building is getting new tenants, Lonestar Distribution Inc., an oilfield distribution company. The building was purchased recently by SeedAmerica, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which specializes in buying empty or under-utilized commercial properties, renovating them and leasing space in them to businesses.

After sitting empty for several years, the old Murray Corporation building is coming back to life.

The 200,000-square foot building at 2002 Tile Factory Rd. has been purchased by SeedAmerica, a 501(c) 3 non-profit company which specializes in acquiring empty, or underutilized, commercial properties, renovating them and leasing or selling them to other businesses to promote economic growth in communities.

“What it does is provide us with a building a lot more accessible than in the past, with an ownership interested in brokering deals,” Palestine Economic Development Corporation executive director Brian Malone said. “That really helps us in terms of people who need space but not the whole building.”

According to the company Web site, SeedAmerica, based in Alpharetta, Ga., makes use of the IRS’ 561 Exchange, a program for non-profits which allows companies to exchange a property for cash through tax credits via tax deductions.

According to the Frequently Asked Questions portion of its Web site, “this exchange primarily impacts income tax vs. capital gains tax. SeedAmerica focuses on properties that will generate more cash in the owner’s pocket as compared to selling it at list price.”

“We work hand-in-hand with the economic development corporations,” Chris Zimmerman, president of SeedAmerica’s Asset Management Division, said. “If the economic development corporation has any sort of prospect it’s trying to attract, we can offer enticing deals with rent too good to pass up. It costs so much to relocate, we can do concessions in rent. Our goal is to put tenants in there.”

The Murray building is the company’s first venture in Texas, Zimmerman said, and the 18th property that it has undertaken nationwide in its efforts to enhance local communities’ business and economic prospects.

“This is a way for property owners to divest themselves of a property,” he said. “The community benefits because now they have an owner who’s very pro finding tenants.”

Normally SeedAmerica sets a goal to have a property 80 percent occupied after 18 months, but because of the good condition of the Murray building, the time frame has been shortened to six to 12 months, he said.

“The building layout is ideal,” Zimmerman said, noting that the 200,000 square feet actually is partitioned into a 100,000 foot section and two 50,000 foot sections. “The building is in superb condition. It’s ready to move in.”

The location between Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio also helps, as does the eagerness of the PEDC to help locate tenants, Zimmerman said.

“The willingness of the EDC in Palestine is absolutely wonderful,” he said. “We’ve experienced the same kind of openness in other places and it’s wonderful.”

The company already has its first tenant for part of the Murray building – oilfield firm Lonestar Distribution Inc., based in Midland.

Lonestar Distribution, founded in 1990, provides warehousing, material handling and transportation services to major and large independent mud companies. It is a part of Agri-Empresa Inc., which manufacturers, packages and distributes chemicals used in oilfield and industrial applications. Agri-Empresa is owned by W-H Energy of Houston.

The oilfield firm is happy to have found the type of space it needed, said Donney Walker of LDI.

“We looked all around – Buffalo, Jacksonville, Tyler,” Walker said. “Those folks (at PEDC) were really accommodating. Any questions, any needs, they were met. There’s a good business atmosphere with those folks.”

Lonestar already had been looking for a possible site for operations in East Texas when the SeedAmerica deal came through, Walker said.

“We just didn’t have a location in the East Texas area,” he said. “There’s a market there and we’ve been wanting to move into the area for some time.”

The Murray building provided an ideal opportunity for both companies, Malone said.

“We were just fortunate that it timed out that SeedAmerica was trying do the deal when Lonestar came into the picture,” Malone said. “It’s a win-win situation right there.”

In addition to aiding local economies, SeedAmerica has its sights on promoting business through endowing a business school, Zimmerman said.

“We’re building an endowment to start a business school,” Zimmerman said. “We recognize the huge supply of empty buildings. Instead of ignoring the problem, we want to tackle it head-on and put life into them.

“It’s a win for the companies, for the cities and for us.”

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On the Net:

W-H Energy Services, which includes Agri-Empesa and Lonestar Distributing: http://www.whes.com/

SeedAmerica: http://www.seedamerica.com

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Beth Foley may be contacted via e-mail at bfoley@palestineherald.com, SeedA

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