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Published: Wednesday, 3/16/2005

Deal reached for Philips plant in Ottawa

OTTAWA, Ohio - A Virginia investment firm said yesterday it has a tentative deal to buy the 1.2 million-square-foot plant and 60 acres of land vacated by LG Philips Displays, which displaced 1,200 jobs in Putnam County when it closed in late 2002.

Collison "Chip" Royer, a lawyer and spokesman for Pilot Fish LLC in Charlottesville, Va., said the firm entered into a 90-day pact with LG Philips USA Inc. March 2 to explore the possibilities of subdividing the complex for warehouse, industrial, or commercial-park uses.

"It's a big place, and it's in a perfect location for storage or distribution," said Mr. Royer, who will be among several people from Pilot Fish visiting the Philips facility this week.

Jeff Loehrke, Ottawa's community development director, said, "I have guarded optimism, but we're very enthusiastic about the interest in the building. It has been sitting empty for two years."

Lee Schroeder, Putnam County's economic development director, said he, too, is optimistic, but it's too soon to tell how many and what types of jobs could be created.

He said officials from Ottawa and Putnam County have been aware of the potential project for several weeks.

Among Pilot Fish representatives visiting Ottawa this week will be John McMillin, of Charlotte, N.C., manager of the firm that was created in early December, and Frank Birckhead, an investor from Charlottesville, Va.

Putnam County, with only about 35,000 residents, was hard hit by the closing of the Philips plant, its largest employer, which made TV picture tubes. The plant, which once employed 1,500, was idled when Philips moved the work to Mexico. Workers were paid an average of $14 an hour.

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