SUNBURY – A historic donation in Sunbury; the historic Sunbury Textile Mills will be donated to a regional economic development group. During a news conference Friday, leaders of Glen Raven, Inc. owner of the former Sunbury Textile Mills, announced its donating the buildings and grounds to DRIVE for future economic development in the Valley. The plant was forced to close down in June due to the pandemic.
Glen Raven Director of Operations Brian Burke says a donation like this has never been done before, but the company’s ‘all-in’ on the area, “Glen Raven had one thought in mind and that is what could be the future of this physical plant. The other thought that was equally as important was the health of our associates to see that they would have jobs.”
DRIVE, an economic development council of governments serving the Valley, will now take over the facility. The idea was spearheaded by State Representative Lynda Schlegel Culver (R-108th, Sunbury), who then formed a task force that includes DRIVE Executive Director Jennifer Wakeman.
Wakeman says taking on this project is one of DRIVE’s biggest accomplishments, “It speaks to the work our board has done, our staff has done over the last several years. We have a track record now of re-purposing buildings, of finding new ways to create jobs when companies leave. That’s a great honor, honestly, and I couldn’t be happier she (Culver) put that kind of faith in us.”
The task force also includes Burke, Sunbury City Administrator Jody Ocker, and Lauren Bryson of Central Pennsylvania. Culver says lots of inquiries about the 400,000 square-foot building are already coming in, “I think the Glen Raven commitment to our community to make sure that it just didn’t sit and fall apart on us….we’ve had a lot of interested people locally, nationally, and internationally. Unfortunately because of the COVID situation, the international folks have only been able to tour the facility virtually, but we still continually everyday have somebody looking at the plant. Hopefully we can get some of those employees back.”
Culver says concrete ideas are not set in stone yet, but the idea is to lease or sell portions of the facility. She says two vacant parcels of the mill will be donated to the City of Sunbury for its fire departments to use for training, and the ultimate goal is to make it a regional training center. Glen Raven first purchased the facility three years ago and will be onsite through the end of 2020. The textile mill has been a fixture of the City of Sunbury since about 1892.