Thursday, August 28, 2014
The winding road to the shuttered American LaFrance facility in Berkeley County will come alive again in the coming weeks as winning bidders retrieve chassis, engines, parts, and transmissions.
American LaFrance closed earlier this year after years of financial turmoil. The company left behind debts to public and private institutions, which have turned to auctioning off the once proud American company by the lot.
As the warehouse off of Cypress Gardens Road between Moncks Corner and Goose Creek empties, American LaFrance’s presence will ebb in the county that lost hundreds of job to its closure. The county has already regained public money lost in an economic development deal through an auction against American LaFrance’s business personal property.
The Aug. 27 auction recovered private debt, which had a lien against American LaFrance’s assets including inventory.
According to auctioneer company The Branford Group, of the more than 900 lots at auction, about 875 sold, leaving behind just stray bits and pieces. Those leftovers will either be sold in another offering or sold for scrap, a company official said. But even with not every lot sold, Branford Group Vice President of Business Development Andy Duncan said the auction was a success.
“It brought what we expected it to bring,” Duncan said. Marketing materials for the auction said there was $8 million in inventory.
But despite the large price tag, bidders got deals during Aug. 27 private auction. Duncan said chassis equipped with fire pumps and more sold for about $50,000.
“Someone got a good deal, absolutely, no question about it,” Duncan said.
More than 100 bidders registered online in the days leading up to the auction, according to the auctioneer company, The Branford Group. The auction was held at an off-site location in North Charleston and online.
Most bidders were online: 120 online versus 75 in-person.
“Every auction is a little bit different,” The Branford Group CEO Bill Gardner said. He said most auctions have 50/50 web and in-person participation.
Gardner said the people interested in picking American LaFrance’s bones are former dealers and contractors of the firetrucks, competitors, local companies, and truck repair shops.
Sheldon Martin manufactures firetrucks in Honey Brook, Penn., and came down to the preview the auction Aug. 26. Martin said it’s the fifth time he’s come down to the Lowcountry to pick over whatever American LaFrance might have to offer at an auction. He said he first came down to Summerville in 2010 when the company held an auction at its Jedburg location.
The No. 1 item he was searching for was parts not unique to American LaFrance trucks.
Another potential bidder was Howard Sawyers of Virginia. Sawyers was interested in motors, wheels, tires, brake chambers and more for his business selling buses. He frequents auctions all over the country for his business. He said he wasn’t aware that American LaFrance had closed for good until he received notice of this auction.
Auctioneer company officials remained mum on who contracted them for the auction but said it was a secured lender.
According to online public records search for in South Carolina and Pennsylvania, Dell Financial Services of Austin is a secured party of American LaFrance’s debt from 2006. Uniform Commercial Codes reflect personal property liens on all business and professional loans. Prior to its closure in January, American LaFrance operated out of both states.