Business

High-tech company moving downtown

Insignia Group, a company that designs e-catalogs featuring auto parts and accessories, plans to open a headquarters by August in the old Advantage Payroll building on Oakland Avenue, originally the home of People's First Insurance.
Insignia Group, a company that designs e-catalogs featuring auto parts and accessories, plans to open a headquarters by August in the old Advantage Payroll building on Oakland Avenue, originally the home of People's First Insurance.

A company that designs e-catalogs featuring auto parts and accessories is moving from Charlotte to downtown Rock Hill, bringing 12 employees and a long-term plan to hire many more.

Insignia Group aims to open a headquarters by August in the old Advantage Payroll building on Oakland Avenue, originally the home of People's First Insurance. Two designers and a Web developer will be hired immediately, but the company's president envisions growing to as many as 150 employees over the next few years.

"We're on a hiring binge right now," said David Stringer, who lives in Rock Hill and founded Insignia in 1999. "Our business is just rapidly expanding, and we have to keep up. When we come through this, we really ought to be positioned to be the market leader for several years to come."

Insignia has carved a niche in the $37 billion car parts and accessories industry. Among its clients are 1,000 car dealerships around the country, including General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Honda and Mazda. Dealerships hire Insignia to create snazzy-looking online catalogs that customers can use to buy items such as rims, running boards and decals.

Earlier deal didn't pan out

This summer, the Williams & Fudge college loan agency will bring some 200 employees to the renovated Cotton Factory. Soon after, Insignia will bring to downtown "another steady source of people that can support retail and restaurants," said David Lawrence, a downtown development manager for the city.

"They're definitely in an up-and-coming field," he said.

Insignia signed an option a year ago to buy the former Rock Hill National Bank operations center on East Black Street. But the timing and cost of renovations didn't match up, Stringer said, so a final contract wasn't signed.

Now, it has settled on the Oakland Avenue building, available because Advantage Payroll is folding into a Charlotte office. The company paid $775,000 for the property, with commercial broker Randy Graham of Sperry Van Ness/Southern Commercial Real Estate handling the sale.

The move represents a homecoming of sorts for Insignia executives. Stringer, 34, lives near Rock Hill High School, two vice presidents live in York and Clover, and the director of customer service lives in Fort Mill. The company now is divided into two offices on Charlotte's Westinghouse Boulevard.

"It definitely was a natural move for us," Stringer said. "The cost of doing business is less. You still have the access to Charlotte, yet we'll be in the middle of that growing downtown area."

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