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Farm-related business sprouts in West Galax

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On the mostly rural side of the city, a major economic development project is taking root as the Andrews brothers turn an old factory into a tractor dealership and business incubator.

By April Wright, Reporter

 

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One of the city’s biggest economic developments is in the mostly rural West Galax community, as the Andrews family turns the former Sawyers Furniture plant into a farm tractor dealership and spaces for several other businesses.
A few months ago, the state announced that $2.8 million from the Industrial Revitalization Fund would be awarded to six projects. The city applied and was awarded $382,000 — a dollar-for-dollar matching loan — to revitalize the old Sawyers Furniture plant on Kenbrook Drive, which closed more than 15 years ago.
As a separate investment project that is not funded with the grant money, the owners have started Tractor Service Center of Virginia at the site, a dealership and repair shop.
The Sawyers property is owned by brothers Keith and Bobby Andrews, who bought the location two years ago after renting the land to farm cabbage.
They also own Andrews Farming, a large commercial agriculture business in West Galax’s Oldtown community, but have largely given up farming themselves since undertaking this project.
“The [former Sawyers] owner said, ‘Why don’t you just buy it,’” said Keith Andrews. “So we decided to make the purchase.”
The dollar-for-dollar matching component took into account the rehab work that the Andrews brothers had already completed on the property, the purchase of the property for $250,000 and $14,000 in waived business permits and water and sewer tap fees from the city.
The $382,000 will be loaned straight to the Andrews brothers from Virginia Community Capital for the economic development project.
(Initially, the loan was expected to be managed by the city.)
This loan will allow the Andrews brothers to revitalize the 80,000-square-foot furniture plant, located on 24 acres near the intersection of Kenbrook Drive and Nuckolls Curve Road, just off U.S. 58 West.
The project will create seven tenant spaces between 5,700 to 10,000 square feet for private investors, possibly creating more jobs for the area. Keith Andrews said the funding for this part of the project was received on June 1.
In exchange for the low-interest loan, the Andrews brothers will set a reasonable rental rate for tenants.
With prospective business owners looking to start or expand at the location, Keith Andrews said construction will begin as soon as possible and a tenant is expected to be in place by August.
Each space will have exterior access, an office and restroom area. Spaces would be flexible — a wall could be easily removed in order to create a larger area if needed.
As president of the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Keith Andrews said this is not only a good investment for the brothers, but for the city, as well.
“This is a nice business venture for my brother and I, and the city also needed space, in addition to the Crossroads Institute business incubator,” said Andrews.
Galax City Manager Keith Barker said the first benefit of the property is providing space and opportunity for entrepreneurs needing smaller industrial-type space.
While there are several industrial spaces available due to factories closing, those spaces were too big for those wanting to start a small business or open a woodworking shop, for example.
“This gives us some mid-range property, and it takes a vacant building and brings it back to its intended purpose of industrial use,” said Barker. “With low ceilings, the Sawyers plant has been a tough property for us to market, but there is a great opportunity for startup businesses, and it’s a great fit for us.”
The state reviewed projects with an emphasis on those with a high level of blight, impediments to economic development and alignment with regional or local strategies, according to a press release.

Tractor Service Center of Virginia
Tractor Service Center of Virginia opened last month, offering Gravely Mowers and Branson Tractors and farming supplies.
It employs technicians certified in John Deere, Kubota, Massey Ferguson, Bush Hog and New Holland equipment.
“We can work on any farming equipment whatsoever, and we’ll have all the parts and items you need,” said Keith Andrews of the full-service tractor service center and dealership. “The place was so run down, and we’ve invested a lot of money to change its appearance.”
The brothers are transforming a couple of deteriorating buildings on the property into tractor repair shops and a 10,000-square-foot showroom.
“With no tractor dealership around here, we thought this was a big need for the community,” said Keith Andrews. “And we’re slowly growing.”
Shortly after purchasing the location, the brothers gave up farming after Bobby experienced some health problems, and the tractor dealership became a new undertaking.
When the Andrews brothers were operating their farms, they had their tractors serviced by a company in Mount Airy, N.C.
Will Nelson, of the Fairview community, worked at that tractor company. He would spend his nights and weekends working on Andrews Farming equipment.
Then, the Andrews brothers told Nelson that they would open a tractor repair shop if Nelson became a part of their operation.
Nelson is one of two technicians at the Tractor Service Center of Virginia, along with Mark Bartlett.  
“We had seen such a demand for this type of service,” said Keith Andrews. “And this is what we came up with. We had to do it.”
Andrews said he plans to hire three more technicians and about four sales people, creating about 18 jobs once the dealership is in full bloom.
A grand opening will be held in early fall.

Tractor Service of Virginia is located at 108 Kenbrook Drive, across from Healing Springs Animal Hospital on Nuckolls Curve Road in Galax. For more information, call 601-2245. Tractor Service of Virginia is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.