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.

Shoe design lab

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.

Warehouse revenue

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.

Modular added

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.

Adidas Yeezy has become big business

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.  

To see the sneakers, go to yeezys-adidas.us.com/

Advertised jobs with Yeezy in Cody include:

• 3D designer

• Rapid prototype technician

• Designer color and materials

• Shoemaker

• Footwear developer

• Footwear pattern engineer

• Footwear designer

• Director footwear development

• Design director footwear

• Footwear prototype engineer

• Footwear stitcher

(11) comments

Kat_Jo

What you guys are all overlooking is all of the other jobs and money coming in as a secondary to all of this. Already, Kanye has provided a ton of construction and trades work to multiple local companies, especially during the slow winter season. His projects are being run by local architects and engineers. He’s purchased various trucks, side by sides, and other equipment from local dealers. He eats out at local restaurants every single day and puts his people up in local hotels and rentals. The airport has more air traffic than ever, a local driving service is always busy, and a local detail shop had to hire 3 new people just to handle Kanye’s contract. I see a lot more jobs being created than just the 23 specific ones listed by Adidas. Think bigger picture! I see this economic boom and growth as a positive thing that will only boost and stabilize our community during the tourist off-season.

Disgusted taxpayer

Park County,and the rest of Wyoming, has been stuck in the oil & gas boom and bust cycle for generations allowing their kids to find greener pastures outside of the state,and rightly so.Most kids don't want to do manual labor now days and will go out of their way to avoid it,resulting in a putrid labor force with minimum wage earners.Pair that with some towns desire to create seasonal tourist traps and what are young workers to do? Many of us left Wyoming years ago because of this quicksand mentality to never return.But it is enlightening to see someone make an attempt at creating jobs and tax revenue,something the entire state needs.

todayistheday

Some of us like our small little tourist towns ! You see, we understand the traps of big city living, violent crime, drugs, robbery, burglary, high taxes, etcetera, by the way, there are a lot of young folks, who enjoy the values, and lifestyle of living in Wyoming, and make it their home ! Their dependence is upon themselves, and they are proud of it ! Calling folks who live, and work in our great freedom loving state " putrid ", shows you do not know as much as you think you do, people who do " manual labor " make good livings, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, welders, mechanics, painters, equipment operators, and many more, all make good livings. If a journeymen decides to start his, or her own business, they will easily enter into the six figure salaries ! Four year apprenticeship, four years later a tradesman can be earning those wages ! How many college grads are making six figures eight years out of college ? My first year as a journeyman back in the mid eighties payed me sixty eight thousand bucks, twenty thousand more than my college grad buddies. Not everyone can be a Doctor, or lawyer, not every kid wants to go into debt to go to college, to earn a living ! By the way, those oil, and gas jobs, pay quite well, plenty of six figure jobs in the oil and gas industry ! The average college grad today is making forty eight thousand dollars after an average eighty to one hundred thousand dollars in debt. By comparison a vocation education grad, that " putrid labor workforce " worker can earn the same forty eight to sixty five thousand, depending on trade, with only twenty to thirty thousand dollars in debt. I worked several manual labor careers over my working life, learned a great deal, made a great living, and enjoyed my life ! Manual labor jobs built this country jack !

Disgusted taxpayer

Congratulations..you have drank the kool aid.BTW...why no mention of the massive nepotism problem across Wyoming...and I know it exists and has since before statehood.

Tribal Folk

23 jobs, oh my, what an economic "boon"...I'm sure that our daughter, a 23 yr old do nothing (like most of the 20-somethings here in Park County) is going to "qualify" for one of those speciality positions. What Mr. West is going to find out (or already knows) is that the local workforce is, on a scale of 1 to 10, about about a 2. "If' he every really planned to hire locals, Mr. West will find that it's better off to import outsiders that DO want to to work. As far as Forward Cody even trying to take credit for any of this, think again. What has it been, 14-15 years? Forward Cody has yet to produce anything, even with the full backing of the city and county ( both who have tried to stimy local business people, yet roll out the red carpet for someone (Mr. West) who is here today but can easily be gone tomorrow. Economic Development around here has always been a joke...or is it that the "jokers" rule this so called eco. development?

todayistheday

I think you have it about right, though not all young folks here are afraid of work !

wyomugs

Are you kidding us? Only 23 jobs? Let's be REAL about this, just how many people in Cody are EXPERIENCED in shoe making? This isn't Italy. Maybe we have a boot maker or two, possibly a farrier here and there. But if you say, "cobbler" in Cody, most of us think of cherry, peach, or apple!

I can't believe Klessens is so blinded by the color of West's money rather than then common sense of his plans (of which Klessens has not been kept apprised of). If you had a chance to actually read these job details, which I have, they are looking for EXPERIENCED shoe designers and "creators." None say, "no experience required," or "will train." Even in Italy, they have apprenticeships to train their workers.

Sorry, but as far as Cody goes, the only ones who've benefited from his money are the property owners. Where are the hard questions being asked? Are we so enamored of West's money and celebrity that reality has disappeared? Tornadoes come in with a big wind, stir things up, but then leave... leaving a lot of mess in its wake. Maybe Mr West is not a tornado, but I'm not convinced of that yet.

B-52

I hope the County officials read this article. The man is trying to bring jobs to Park County to enhance the local economy. The County should do everything in their power to help mitigate the hurdles they have imposed on him to stop the economic opportunities Mr. West offers. The County should ask and pay attention to the local business owners to find out the detrimental effects their power hungry decisions have had on the all of the business community. In the short time Mr. West has been here he has done more economically for Cody than Forward Cody has done since they began.

todayistheday

Twenty three jobs, is not going to build the great metropolis you are seeking. Perhaps you should go to a big city, and see what kind of employment is out there ? All you folks who want Cody to be some big city, should go live in one ! We live her because we do not want to live in a big city. We like a safe quite place to live, and work ! Just look at the crime in Billings, a hundred and forty five miles away, is that what you want for Cody ? I sure hope not, you have obviously not lived in a big city, you should go try it ! By the way, you say mr. West has done more for Cody than apparently anyone else, what would that be ? Again twenty three jobs, is not going to create the metropolis you want !

Kat_Jo

I agree 100%!

decade 3

uh, ya, those "positions" will definitely be filled by locals...speaking of locals, Kanye is going to find out that Park County has a horrid work force...uh, let's just say "force" as hardly anyone around here knows how to work

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