Sold! Remnants of shuttered manufacturer sell at public auction

  • Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lindsay Street/Gazette Scout Boats President Steve Potts browses tools looking for items to help with his Summerville manufacturing company's expansion during Wednesday's American LaFrance business personal property auction in Berkeley County.

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A former employee who said he locked the gate to American LaFrance earlier this year stood inside the Patillo building once again Wednesday — this time, not as an employee, but as one of hundreds interested in the county’s sales of the dissolved company’s business personal assets.

The man, who asked for his name to be withheld, said he was just “spectating.” But there were no tears or bittersweet emotion.

“It’s just life,” he shrugged. “We expected it two years ago.”

American LaFrance closed in January, ending employment for hundreds and leaving behind a $650,000 debt to taxpayers in an economic development deal.

On Wednesday, the county sought to recoup that money in a public auction of the debts at the company’s final resting place on Cypress Gardens Road.

According to the county supervisor, Dan Davis, this is likely the only time a county has had to sell off a company’s business personal property in an economic deal killed by the company essentially disappearing.

Prior to the 9 a.m. start Wednesday, more than 90 had pre-registered online, and more than 70 had pre-registered for in-person bidding the day before.

Scout Boats President Steve Potts drove over from his Summerville plant to get a deal. His No. 1 item of interest? Bridge cranes.

“We have an expansion going on so we have a need for equipment, tools — just about everything,” Potts said. “This company had some similarities in that it was a manufacturer.”

Robert Holseberg of Rewined Candles in Charleston was also looking for extra equipment to aid in his company’s expansion. He was particularly interested in the forklifts, tables and cabinets.

Cincinnati Industrial Auctioneers handled the auction. A representative said that the auction could last until 7 p.m. Wednesday. Bidders can also participate online at bidspotter.com.

The company’s inventory, which includes firetrucks in various stages of completion, was not in Wednesday’s sale. The county says the owners of the Patillo building have claim to it due to American LaFrance defaulting on its lease. A representative of the Patillo building said they are still trying to reach someone within the company to settle the issue.

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