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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

ST. PETERSBURG, FL-Cox Enterprises Inc. is putting its Valpak direct-mail advertising division up for sale as part of an overall move toward focusing on its core communications business. In the balance is a long-term lease by Valpak at its massive 460,000-sf industrial building along Interstate 275 and the west bank of Tampa Bay.

Valpak, which produces familiar blue envelopes stuffed with coupons distributed nationwide, opened its $220-million printing and mailing facility earlier this year with over 1,000 employees. The plant is owned by Grady Pridgen Inc., a St. Petersburg-based commercial developer that would not disclose additional details about Valpak’s lease terms when contacted Thursday.

In addition to Valpak, Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises plans to sell several of its smaller newspapers, including the Austin American-Statesman and others in Texas, North Carolina and Colorado. It will retain the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Palm Beach (FL) Post and Dayton (OH) Daily News, a company release stated.

“This decision was made as part of an ongoing strategic review of our portfolio and enables us to maintain our strong and stable financial performance by further paying down debt,” stated Jim Kennedy, Cox Enterprises chairman and CEO. Approximately 80% of the company’s revenue comes from sources other than its traditional media holdings, such as newspapers and radio and television stations.

Kennedy noted in a release that Valpak is considered an industry leader and trusted brand among consumers, adding that its state-of-the-art production facility allows it to operate more effectively. Valpak was established in Largo in 1968 and bought by Cox Enterprises in 1991, after which it was rebranded as Cox Target Media. Goldman Sachs will assist with marketing Valpak, with information for prospective buyers to be released in September.

Construction of Valpak’s St. Petersburg plant began in early 2006 and was completed late last year. The facility combined company operations in Largo and Elm City, NC, and now mails out an estimated 500 million coupon-filled envelopes in 17 languages annually.

Valpak’s lease is one of the largest industrial deals executed in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market in many years. The metro area’s industrial vacancy rate at midyear is 6.7%, including 4.1% in the South Pinellas submarket where Valpak is a tenant, according to Clearwater-based Colliers Arnold.

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