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VOL. 123 | NO. 45 | Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hardy to Reopen East Raines Plant April 7

By Rosalind Guy

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One of the businesses nearly destroyed by the Feb. 5 storms that hit parts of Memphis and the surrounding region plans to be up and running in early April, one of the company's lead executives said.

Hardy Bottling, the locally owned site of the former Coors Brewery off East Raines Road, has a letter out to customers letting them know the plant will be operational by April 7. At that time, all of Hardy Bottling's employees will be returning for the first time since the storms.

The facility at 5151 E. Raines Road in Southeast Memphis sustained massive roof and flood damage during the February storms and has been shut down since then.

About half of the roof was torn away, so the immediate problem for Hardy and her team became salvaging products that weren't damaged and shipping them back to customers or to another warehouse to prevent further damage.

"Every time it rains, it gets worse for us," Hardy told The Daily News last month.

Hardy also was looking for a place to relocate the business at the time, but she said the goal of the company's leadership changed over the last few weeks.

"The team and I got together and said 'OK, what do we need to do to generate revenue right now?' and then over time the other things that we need to fix, we'll fix," she said. "And we'll (be in a better position to) go try to find money for them. After we've shown them that we can make money."

When the company's more than 100 employees return to work, its manufacturing side and some warehouse space should be repaired.

The way the building is constructed, Hardy said, allows the work to be completed in a manner that keeps one side isolated from the other until all the work has been finished.

Though the repairs will allow work to begin at the facility again in April, they will not be cheap and they are only temporary, Hardy said.

"The work we're doing today will cost many, many millions of dollars," she said. "And over half of it will have to be redone in the next two to three years. It's probably a two- to five-year fix. But if we took our time, it would be a 20-year fix. But I can't afford that amount of time."

The repair work is being paid for from the company's working capital fund, she said.

The two-year-old company's air-conditioning unit was ripped from the roof of the building as well. To repair it would cost about $10 million to $15 million, and that's something the company can't afford right now.

"I can't fix that," Hardy said. "I don't have the funding. I don't need that for manufacturing. So, I'm not going to fix it in 2008. I can't get money from the bank if I'm not running, so it's a catch-22."

The goal is to get back up and running and generating revenue again and to bring employees back to work, while at the same time not losing any more customers.

Hardy said the company lost some work from one of its biggest clients, which will total about 20 percent of Hardy Bottling's revenue for the year.

She declined to reveal the name of the customer, adding only that the company didn't lose all of the customer's business.

She also said Hardy Bottling's leadership wanted to take necessary steps not to lose its anchor customer: Coors.

"We would lose Coors as a customer totally if we moved," she said. "Our mission has been over the last three weeks, 'How do we save Coors as a customer? How do we save the core of our beverage business?' - which results in, 'How do we save our employees?'"

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 66 153 14,870
MORTGAGES 64 144 19,474
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 22 3,817
BUILDING PERMITS 217 359 35,689
BANKRUPTCIES 59 121 14,155
BUSINESS LICENSES 24 86 5,077
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 71 170 21,603
MARRIAGE LICENSES 22 59 4,616

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