Bartow Trailer Manufacturer Closes
Article provided by: The Ledger
BARTOW | A business based out of the Bartow Municipal Airport & Industrial Park has suddenly shuttered, leaving some of its customers wondering if orders will be fulfilled or deposits will be paid back.
Husky Cargo, which manufactured custom enclosed trailers, opened in February and occupied three buildings at the Bartow airport.
But on June 15, Cynthia Barrow — executive director of the Bartow Municipal Airport Development Authority — said she started fielding phone calls from customers who were unable to reach the company, and noted the business's phone line had been disconnected.
"I went down there that same afternoon, and I had to wait outside the gates, which had been closed and locked," said Barrow, who'd also heard that Husky Cargo's workforce had dwindled from 80 employees to about 30 earlier in the month. "After a while, I had a representative come out and tell me that they weren't in business anymore."
Barrow was eventually given a forwarding number for Husky Cargo customers to use. A call placed to that number on Wednesday by The Ledger resulted in the following message:
"On June 11, 2015, the assets of Husky Cargo LLC were seized by creditors. The employees operating on these premises have been contacted by the creditors to liquidate the inventory and make delivery on as many of their remaining orders as possible. You will be contacted shortly to discuss the production schedule and be given new contact information for future communications. We know this can be unsettling news, but please understand that we are attempting to help as many customers as possible."
Barrow said she has been receiving several phone calls a day from customers.
"I'm taking calls from all over Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, even Canada," she said. "There was a guy from Georgia who drove down here and started honking his horn at the gate until they let him in.
"I don't know if he got his trailer, but the people I talk to want to get something from them."
Scott Wilder, spokesman for the Polk County Sheriff's Office, said there are currently no criminal cases related to Husky Cargo complaints.
However, the Sheriff's Office was contacted in March by a representative from a Georgia company seeking to pick up a trailer that he said was supposed to be ready on March 10. Husky Cargo representatives said they were still working on it and that the customer should have called ahead.
"These are civil cases in nature," Wilder said. "If there is evidence that there was intentional fraud — in other words, a business knowingly takes someone's money with no intention on delivering a product or service — then that is criminal in nature."
Husky Cargo is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau. But according to the BBB website, there have been 27 complaints made against Husky Cargo LLC in the past three years, including 17 in the past year.
Husky Cargo was operated by Mike Gatewood and Dwayne Pass. Pass said he managed the business and Gatewood was the owner.
"Just before Memorial Day, we had one of the highest sales weeks we'd ever had," Pass said. "Excitement was high, and we were rolling."
The Tuesday after Memorial Day, Pass said, he and his wife — who worked as a bookkeeper with Husky Cargo — received an email from Gatewood and his attorney informing them their employment had been terminated.
Gatewood could not be reached for comment.
Barrow said Husky Cargo was not a direct tenant of the Bartow Airport. The business leased its three buildings from a company called Lone Wolf Properties.
"We're still getting paid," Barrow said when asked how Husky Cargo's sudden departure affected the airport. Lone Wolf Properties purchased the buildings and subleased them to Husky Cargo.
Barrow said she feels bad for the customers who keep calling the airport.
"Frankly, I don't know what's going to happen in terms of them getting their money back if they put down a deposit," Barrow said. "I feel so bad for some of these people because they're just desperate."
[ John Ceballos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7515. ]