A Mount Airy-based commercial property owner and manager has acquired the L.S. Starrett Co. facility in Mount Airy, with plans to fill unused space with new tenants while also retaining Starrett’s operations there.

Wise Storage Solutions has acquired the 320,000-square-foot facility from Starrett, and has already identified a national steel company and an international furniture maker to occupy vacant space in the building.

Tool-maker L.S. Starrett will continue to operate in its current space, occupying just less than one-third of the building. The approximately 20-acre property is at 1372 Boggs Drive.

“We are very pleased to be able to complete this transaction with Wise Storage Systems, which is mutually beneficial for our employees, the city of Mount Airy and Surry County,” said L.S. Starrett President and CEO Douglas Starrett. “Our building has been underutilized over the last three years so this sale and leaseback will allow our personnel to stay close to home as we continue to operate our North America saw distribution and service center.”

Founded in 1880 and headquartered in Athol, Massachusetts,  L.S. Starrett (NYSE: SCX) manufactures more than 5,000 variations of precision tools, gauges, measuring instruments and saw blades for industrial, professional and consumer markets worldwide.

Starrett operates six manufacturing plants in the U.S. that employ 690, and three plants in Brazil, Scotland and China that employ 720. The Mount Airy plant employs approximately 50.

In January 2018, Starrett wrote a letter to its Mount Airy employees stating the company could not sustain operations at its level at that time and that was trimming its workforce, according to a February 2018 story in the Mount Airy News.

“We have made the decision that we cannot sustain current operations in 320,000 square feet and will close the Mount Airy facility,” the letter stated. The company announced it would put the building up for sale but would keep its carbide bandsaw production, planning, purchasing, quality control and research and development open in Mount Airy, along with the carbide, bi-metal and carbon bandsaw welding services, according to the story.

The property was on the market for three years.

“We were excited to work with Doug and L.S. Starrett to keep this company in Mount Airy and to help additional companies find much-needed space in our market,” said Wise Storage Solutions President Dean Bray III. “We will be at full capacity in the building with the addition of two companies we have worked with to find space that meets their needs.”

Wise Storage Solutions, a division of Mount Airy-based Bray Properties, owns approximately 10 million square feet of warehouse space in the Carolinas. At a price of $5.5 million, the purchase of the Starrett property is the company’s most expensive to date, Wise Storage Solutions Property Manager Neal Willard told Triad Business Journal

“The Wise Storage Solutions team did a great job of working with L.S. Starrett to help them find a solution to their situation, and in the process helped other companies find space they needed to grow,” said Surry County Economic Development Partnership President Todd Tucker.

The companies moving into the building were not identified, but Willard described them as a national metalworks company that was seeking a presence in North Carolina, and a furniture maker that needed warehouse space, largely as staging for the bi-annual High Point Market.

“I firmly believe that if we didn’t make this deal when we did that Mount Airy, Surry County and maybe even northwest North Carolina would have been in danger of losing these opportunities to other areas of the state,” Willard said.