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City sponsors state grant application on behalf of stone-working startup

New company hopes to renovate former Carolina Box Co. bldg. on Fonville Street

Burlington’s city council has unanimously agreed to sponsor an application for a state-level grant to help a small stone-working startup carve out some new digs in a vacant industrial facility on the city’s north side.

During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the council voted 5-to-0 to seek a building reuse grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce on behalf of a locally-based limited liability corporation called Armen Stone.

A relatively young enterprise that manufactures stone countertops for building contractors, Armen hopes to use the proceeds from this state grant to renovate a now-desolate facility at 322 Fonville Street that was formerly home to the Carolina Box Company.

According to Burlington’s economic developer Peter Bishop, this plant’s previous occupant had used this facility “to make fancy boxes for special awards and the like.” Bishop told the council that Armen would now like to repurpose the old box factory, which is situated off of North Church Street, several blocks north of the city’s downtown business district.

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Burlington economic developer Peter Bishop, during a presentation to the city council earlier this year

Bishop added that the company is prepared to spend $3 million to purchase and renovate this 65,541-square-foot edifice – where, over the course of two years, it intends to quarter 33 employees with an average anticipated salary of $52,000 a year.

In order to help Armen consummate its vision, Bishop proposed that the city apply for a building reuse grant from the state’s commerce department.

Bishop added that the grant’s administrators have “preliminarily approved” a total award of $200,000 for this project. Bishop noted that the city would be liable for 5 percent of the grant’s total value – which would equate to $10,000 if the grant’s tentative value is later confirmed.

The side of the building on Fonville Street, formerly home to Carolina Box Company, that Armen Stone hopes to repurpose as its own facility.

Bishop assured the council that, in addition to the commerce department’s potential largesse, Armen has remarkably bright financial prospects for such a fledgling enterprise.

“The company has already secured an SBA loan through Fidelity Bank and also a revolving line of credit,” he acknowledged. “That’s a very good start as a startup company to have a bank that believes in you…and certainly everything that we have researched about the company has checked out.”

Should Armen obtain the requested funds from the commerce department, it will join a handful of other local firms that have previously benefited from the state’s building reuse program.

Bishop recalled that, since 2019, the recipients of this grant have pumped $10 million into Burlington’s tax base and added upward of 173 new employees to the local workforce. He went on to recount some of the grant’s individual alums, including Flexaust, an industrial hose manufacturer with a facility along Tucker Street; and NOA Living, a designer and manufacturer of luxury home goods that has inhabited a long dormant textile mill along Lakeside Avenue.

Bishop also alluded to National OnDemand, a specialist in telecom infrastructure that has renovated two buildings within the city’s downtown business district; and ChenMed, a medical office chain that has resuscitated a former pharmacy building along Harden Street.

“This will hopefully be another one in line with those,” Bishop went on to add of Armen Stone.

“This is very critical capital for a challenging property, and we’re happy to have this fit.”

The council went on to approve the grant application by a margin of 5-to-0.

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