News & Media

How A Mill Renovation Helped Sell A German Company on Mooresville


By Kevin Ellis, Business North Carolina

One of the unsung heroes in last week’s announcement of German-based DEHN locating its U.S. headquarters in Mooresville is Michael Bay, local leaders say. Bay is the developer who bought a vacant textile mill more than a decade ago and has turned it into a 1.1 million-square-feet hub of retail, office and restaurant space.

The electrical engineering and manufacturing company, which sells electrical surge protection products to other businesses, will occupy up to 30,000-square-feet of office space inside the Merino Mill, alongside the Main Street Antiques and Design Gallery, the Barcelona Burger and Beer Garden and dozens of other businesses including Hitachi and Samsung. DEHN also will build a manufacturing facility elsewhere in Mooresville, investing $38.6 million and creating 195 jobs with average wages of $66,120.

“He had a vision for this,” Mooresville Mayor Chris Carney says of Bay. “If you could have seen this building 20 years ago it was a condemned piece of real estate. He’s done all of this just through love and hard work.”

The Merino Mill property on the fast-growing town’s Main Street dates back to 1893 when it was the Moor Quality Turkish Towel company, Bay says. It has been many things over the years. “I used to buy my Levi jeans here when it was a Burlington Mills,” says Melissa Neader, chair of the Iredell County Board of Commission and second-generation McDonald’s franchisee. “You could get them at a really good price because they were seconds, but if you didn’t look too close you couldn’t tell if there was a flaw in them so I saved a lot of money.”

Burlington Industries shut its Mooresville factory down in 1999. Bay, who came to the U.S. from Turkey when he was 16, bought the former mill and 40-plus acre site in 2010. “We’ve been working on it for 13 years, but the renovation is still not finished,” says Bay. He expects the renovation to be completed by the end of the year.

DEHN looked at more than 380 locations in 15 states before picking Merino Mill for its headquarters. Selling points were the cooperation between local and state governments and training being offered by the community college, says Ingo Rutenberg, CEO for DEHN USA. The space in the Merino Mill will give the company – which employs about 2,500 workers in 27 countries – a real headquarters.

“Finally we can say Mooresville is our home and really start to push forward,” says Rutenberg.

DEHN has had a sales office in Fort Pierce, Florida, for 20 years. The company does business in about 90 countries, and hopes to take its U.S. sales from $5 million to $100 million in the next seven years, says Philipp Dehn, who represents the fourth generation of the 114-year-old family-owned business based in Bavaria.