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CODY — Cody Labs is closed. But thanks to a long-term lease with Lannett, Forward Cody continues to draw $108,000 per year in rent for its warehouse in Cody’s North Industrial Park.

Partially funded by a state grant and designed for pharmaceutical chemical storage, the 11,292-square-foot warehouse property has a new purpose – footwear fashion.

Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy recently began subleasing the facility for its new Cody Sample Lab, paying Lannett the same amount of $108,00 per year that Lannett continues to pay Forward Cody, said James Klessens, Forward Cody CEO.

“We’re really happy about the fact there’s someone in the building,” he said. “It’d been vacant for about a month. That’s a positive thing.”

It’s a positive turn of events after Lannett, a Philadelphia-based pharmaceutical company, ceased building a $50.5 million prescription drug manufacturing campus next to Forward Cody’s warehouse on Road 2AB. That shutdown in April 2018 was followed by Lannett closing Cody Labs on West Yellowstone last summer, eliminating any need for a warehouse.

The transition from pharmaceuticals to fashion brings a different type of employee and will attract a different clientele than had been expected with Cody Labs, Klessens said.

“What they propose to do in Cody is really exciting and positive and we’re encouraged by that,” he said.

Adidas Yeezy is a fashion collaboration between German sportswear brand Adidas and West, an international hip hop star and entrepreneur. The sample lab is for prototyping and design of Adidas Yeezy footwear.

“(West’s) staff are delightfully positive and visionary,” Klessens said. “They’re hard to keep up with because their hair’s on fire all the time.”

He said any business details he’s privy to are confidential; however, he’s excited by what West and his team have told him about their plans for the Cody Sample Lab.

“These guys know what they’re about in the shoe business,” Klessens said.

He’s helped the West team navigate the city planning and zoning process and guided them on Wyoming Workforce Development services.

“They’re a good group to work with,” he added. “I’ve enjoyed the occasions I’ve had to work with them.

When it comes to most business details, though, Klessens says he’s on the sidelines like everyone else.

In recent months,West has purchased property off Big Horn on Cody’s east side and the former Monster Lake Ranch south of town.

Because the Forward Cody warehouse does not contain office space, Adidas Yeezy has received the city’s OK to place a temporary modular trailer on the 6.59 acre-property with plans to eventually add a covered walkway tying the office and restrooms to the warehouse’s westside exterior door.

Work on the roughly $4 million warehouse intended for Cody Labs began with an August 2014 groundbreaking. It was finished the following spring.

Forward Cody built the $4 million warehouse with a $2.53 million Business Ready Community Grant through the state. The economic development corporation contributed land valued at $200,000 and a $450,000 loan. Lannett contributed $800,000.

In the Cody Labs warehouse lease agreement, Lannett agrees to pay an annual rent of $108,000 for 25 years with the understanding if the company were to buy the facility, it would receive credit for rent paid

“We have 20 years and eight months left on the lease,” Klessens said.

The arrangement is structured as a guaranteed lease, meaning if Lannett stops paying rent, the company loses its cash investment.

“They have to pay it,” he said. “They can’t easily walk away from it.”

Forward Cody uses those cash payments to build its revenue recapture fund used to fund other local projects.

Klessens said the warehouse was designed based on at most three people working there at any one time.

Based on job advertisements, Yeezy will employ at least 14-15 people. To accommodate a higher number of workers, the modular unit is needed to provide sufficient restroom facilities determined by city code.

All utilities will go on the west end of the property, with all connections outside and therefore easy to set up.

“The good news is, they don’t structurally do anything to our building,” Klessens said.

The vacant and unfinished Cody Labs campus of multiple conjoined structure shells is physically connected to the Forward Cody warehouse.

A fire-rated garage door separates the two structures.

“Should something happened to one building, it wouldn’t affect the other buildings,” Klessens said.

If there are definitive plans for the unfinished Cody Labs campus beyond the fire-door, they’re not made public.

According to Klessens, the property has drawn interest.

“There’s been a number of things happening with that property,” he said.

When people contact him, Klessens directs them to a Lannett contact in Philadelphia.

Whether West’s vision for his fashion enterprise involves expanding in Cody is up to speculation. What is known is West’s ventures have drawn the attention to Cody.

“It’s definitely put a spotlight on the community as a destination, from a tourist standpoint, and even from a business standpoint,” Klessens said.

A few months ago, Adidas Yeezy began advertising about 15 positions related to footwear fashion.

Adidas Yeezy jobs in that category available in Park County total 23, according to us.fashionjobs.com. They are permanent, full-time positions based in Cody.

Adidas Yeezy is subleasing Forward Cody’s warehouse on Road 2AB from Lannett, which leases the building from Forward Cody.

Although some jobs involve stitching and marketing, most are along the lines of design, construction and assembly of footwear samples and prototypes using various methods, processes, material and machinery.

Adidas and Kanye West announced a long-term relationship in June of 2016 with the launch of Adidas + Kanye West, uniting Adidas’ innovation and performance expertise with West’s creative vision.

“The unprecedented new alliance makes history as the most significant partnership ever created between a nonathlete and an athletic brand,” reads a news release at www.adidas-group.com/en/media. “It will redefine the future, uniting Adidas’ technical, innovative expertise and capabilities with the visionary imagination of West.”

While mostly known for its sneakers, the Adidas Yeezy collaboration between brand and artist has produced shirts, jackets, track pants, socks and women’s shoes.

West, a hip-hop Grammy winner, talks about his billion-dollar Yeezy sneaker empire, his design obsession and his passion for music in a July Forbes cover story, “Kanye’s Second Coming: Inside the Billion-Dollar Yeezy Empire.”

According to Forbes, West’s footwear line was projected to take in $1.5 billion in sales by the end of 2019.

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