Future of old mill looks promising

Townsend Leather Senior Vice President Tim Beckett addresses his company's expansion project before the Common Council Monday night at City Hall. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Officials for the city and Townsend Leather this week expressed a hope for business success at a public hearing regarding the company’s expansion project at the former Diana Knitting Mill building.

The Common Council conducted a required public hearing Monday night at City Hall for the Townsend project at property at 229 N. Perry St., which it now owns. The hearing was related to a state grant being sought for the project.

Townsend Leather on Townsend Avenue, which dyes and produces leather goods for vendors throughout the world, wants to transform the 66,000-square-foot, former Diana Knitting Mill building into useable workspace.

Only two people spoke at the hearing: Mayor Vern Jackson and Townsend Leather Senior Vice President Tim Beckett of Saratoga Springs.

“They have closed on the property,” Jackson told the council. “Thursday, we took a tour of the building and found it amazing.”

The Common Council voted Nov. 20 to apply for state funding to assist Townsend Leather’s project. City lawmakers applied for funding under the Restore New York Communities Initiative’s Round 5 awards. Townsend has been working with the city and the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth on the expansion project. Townsend hopes to create more than 50 new jobs to start.

Beckett thanked city officials for all their help so far.

“We can’t wait till we get in there and make the changes we want to,” Beckett said.

The city Planning Board on June 6 approved a request by Townsend Leather to renovate the former Diana Knitting Mill building on North Perry Street at Grove Street so it can expand.

The Empire State Development Corp. is making funding available to assist economic development and community revitalization activities through the Restore New York Communities Initiative.

Townsend’s new complex includes 47,000 square feet of a three-story, former knitting mill; and a 19,000-square-foot, two-story addition built in 1988 with a conveyer system. The eventual operation will include manufacturing equipment, dry drums and a leather buffing machine. One side of the complex would hire up to 12 people to start and the brick side of the plant facing Grove Street would involve about 40 employees to start.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.