CANTON — The old Anderson Chevrolet building just off I-40 in Canton was in shambles not much more than a year ago.
Now the building is nearly unrecognizable to those who may have remembered the former car dealership. The large structure, which has been vacant for over a decade, is the new home of Western Star Freightliner, a company that will sell and service large trucks for commercial use.
Freightliner President Larry R. Tysinger said now that the $5 million remodeling project is finished and the road is paved, it’s time to begin moving in.
“We have to move about $500,000 worth of parts, tools and computers in,” he said.
Although Tysinger said it is unlikely that the new location will overtake the company’s flagship store in Greensboro, he expects the Canton facility to quickly outperform the “subpar Asheville facility,” which will close once the move is complete. Tysinger speculated that it may not be long before the Canton store proves to be an even better location than the company’s spot in Hickory, which does a brisk business.
The reason the new store shows so much promise, Tysinger said, is that, in addition to being a beautiful facility, the location right along I-40 and right between the Hickory and Kingsport, Tennessee locations is perfect for cultivating a robust business. Additionally, company leaders have said, in contrast to Asheville, Canton's reputation as a small, working class town, is a good fit for the business.
Once Western Star Freightliner indicated an interest in relocating, there were issues with the access road leading to the business.
Both Canton and Haywood County leaders began discussions on what it would take to bring the company in. While Canton provided $45,000 to construct the road to the building, Haywood County gave $200,000 to the town for further water, road and sewer improvements.
At the time, county leaders reasoned that the added sales and property taxes to be gained by from Western Star would more than make up for the upfront costs.
Mark Clasby, the economic development director in the county, said the $200,000 is money well spent.
“It’d been empty for a number of years, so having an active business there and the visibility is a big positive for Champion Drive,” he said, also noting that the building adds to the county’s tax base.
Clasby also discussed how Freightliner’s presence in Canton will create new jobs which pay a living wage.
“It’s creating 35 jobs, and over the next few years, that may go up to 60 jobs,” he said.
Tysinger echoed Clasby’s enthusiasm about the new job prospects, adding that his company is actively looking for technicians in the area.
“We’re going to be looking for technicians,” he said.
Town Manager Jason Burrell said the project went well relative to other projects of that size and scope, which he attributes to strong work by Clark and Leatherwood Inc., the company which renovated the building.
“It looks really sharp. They did a fantastic job on it,” he said. “When a project goes that smoothly, it’s nice.”
Tysinger said he expects to have a grand opening at the facility on Nov. 15.