Christian Brands expanding here

Friday, April 6, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Up to 50 jobs are anticipated at the recently renamed I-65 Commerce Park in Lewisburg because of decisions made Tuesday afternoon by the city's Industrial Development Board.

What started in the spring of 2008 under the then corporate name of Autom Church Supply Co. of Phoenix, Ariz., has grown into the Christian Brands family of products: candles, jewelry and now home decorations with inspirational messages.

"Heartfelt Home Accents is in the process of moving from Roanoke, Va." to Lewisburg's Commerce Park, according to Bryan McMahon, vice president and chief financial officer at Christian Brands' headquarters in Phoenix.

Wall hangings, shadow boxes and such are the products made by Heartfelt Home Accents. The displays have a Christian message in words and/or art. Christian Brands' best selling church supply products include rosaries, Bibles and other staples of religious life and church services.

McMahon and other Christian Brands leaders anticipate the "conversion" to Lewisburg to be completed this spring, probably by June, he said.

Manufacture of framed inspirational artwork is anticipated in the building constructed by the company in the Commerce Park. It's the first building on the left, as a motorist would drive into the park.

"We're splitting off part of the Will & Baumer building," McMahon said, referring to the 150-year-old candle maker that moved here from Syracuse, N.Y. A July 2009 ground breaking led to that plat which also includes Creed Jewelry, another business that's since been acquired by Christian Brands.

However, new floor-space is to be constructed in the building by "creating a mezzanine level" within the production building that just across a driveway and parking lot from the company's call center and shipping operation.

Construction and related costs are not expected to exceed $300,000, according to the resolution adopted by the city's IDB during its noon Tuesday meeting in the Historic First Avenue Building. The document authorizes a third mortgage on the real estate under an earlier agreement between the city and Christian Brands.

Lewisburg-based attorney Bob Binkley represented First Commerce Bank when the resolution was presented to the board. As the chief operating officer at First Commerce, Eddie Wiles abstained from voting on the resolution. Wiles is chairman of the IDB. Dave Kennedy, another member of the IDB, recently joined the First Commerce Board of Directors, so he, too, abstained. A majority vote was recorded and the project to increase floor space at the plant is proceeding as planed.

"I think they are projecting 50 new jobs there in the next few years," Binkley said Wednesday.

The building has high ceilings and so there's plenty of room for a second story, or half story within the building.

A job fair was conducted in January at the Goodwill Career Solutions for Heartfelt Home Accents.