published Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Carpet-backing giant Propex Global moves downtown

  • photo
    Mike Gorey, president and chief executive officer of Propex Operating Company, LLC,
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

PROPEX GLOBAL

Headquarters: Chattanooga

Products: Polypropylene fabrics and fibers for carpet backings and other flooring materials, internal-construction fabrics for furnishings (sofas and beds) and automobile interiors, geotextiles

Owner: Private equity firm Wayzata Investment Partners in Minnesota

Staff: 2,420

Locations: 10

Revenues: More than $450 million in 2011

Chattanooga-based Propex Global has signed an agreement to move its entire 110-employee headquarters downtown to Warehouse Row, the company revealed.

Its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters in the series of restored warehouse structures will mark the largest lease at Warehouse Row since current owner Jamestown purchased the buildings in 2006.

"This is the next step in our transformation," said Propex CEO Mike Gorey, who has rapidly pushed the synthetic fiber manufacturer to diversify from its mainstay business of carpet backing. "Our target is to be there by the end of the year."

The company's current headquarters in a strip mall on Lee Highway required employees at times to cross a parking lot for meetings.

The new quarters will allow for better communication, and downtown amenities and restaurants will make for happier workers, Gorey said.

"It's much more pragmatic and much more workable," he said. "It will facilitate a lot more communications that were missing."

Kim White, president and CEO of nonprofit developer River City Co., praised the move, which is the latest in a series of tenants moving downtown.

"We'd had a lot of people move in from the outside, like Craftworks, Propex and Access America," White said. "These are firms that have been outside the [central] city and are really wanting to be part of what's downtown."

With the Gold Building moving close to a hotel deal, White said that Chattanooga's downtown was down to roughly 600,000 square feet of vacant space. Two years ago, nearly 1 million square feet of office space was empty downtown after BlueCross BlueShield relocated to a corporate campus on Cameron Hill and TVA and Cigna cut their downtown footprint.

This creates a good problem, she said.

"There's going to be even more need for apartments and housing," White said.

Propex will keep the exposed brick and ceiling beams, Gorey said, in a nod to the company's roots in the building industry.

There's a lot of history there, it's a very innovative building, and it's good for our culture," said the head of the world's largest independent carpet backing producer.

The floors, of course, will be carpet.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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