South Georgia for the Win: Celebrating Economic Victories
In 2019, communities across South Georgia pulled out their ceremonial gold shovels and stringing red ribbon to announce millions of dollars in investments and hundreds of new jobs. There was plenty to celebrate, with 371 economic development projects announced throughout the state in 2019, 79 percent were outside of the Atlanta area, and South Georgia communities including Adel, Bainbridge, Cairo, Camilla, Moultrie, Quitman, Thomasville, Tifton, and Valdosta claimed some big wins.
$28 million investment
To meet a growing demand for quality broiler breeding stock around the world, Aviagen opened a new hatchery in Quitman, Brooks County. The 78,000-square-foot facility is the company’s ninth-largest facility, and has the capacity to set 1.1 million eggs per week. The company invested $28 million in the Quitman hatchery and created 100 new jobs.
Brooks County is also home to one of the state’s largest solar facilities. The Quitman Solar Energy Center, which was completed in December, created hundreds of construction jobs, and is expected to generate more than $13 million in tax revenue over the next 30 years.
$40 million investment
A big win for Colquitt County came with the opening of the region’s first four-year medical school. The $20 million project, along with 30 faculty and staff jobs, represents the start of an immeasurable economic impact the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) will bring to South Georgia.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for PCOM South Georgia on Aug. 6, 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp echoed the state’s support for South Georgia’s first four-year medical college. “I’m proud to say that the state saw how training world-class doctors in Moultrie could be a real game-changer for our region and we have supported this effort.”
With the Class of 2023 representing 59 doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) students, PCOM South Georgia is moving forward in its quest to grow medical education and meet the long-term healthcare needs of the region.
The medical school project, which gained state-wide attention, was awarded the “Deal of the Year” from the Georgia Economic Developers Association.
Another win for Colquitt County came with the retention and expansion of Cavoc Industries. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Cavoc Industries purchased Destiny Industry, which has manufactured modular homes in Moultrie for more than forty years.
While recruiting new industries is a top priority, Grogan says it’s equally important to retain and expand existing companies. “We worked with Cavoc Industries to keep all the jobs in Colquitt; this is a strong and stable company that has a lot of growth potential, and they could have moved the entire operation to one of their other locations.”
The $20 million investment secured 247 existing jobs and projected to create 30 positions during the next three years.
Providing a successful road map for industry growth, Cook County has easy access to major interstates (I-75 and I-10) and state roads, and rail service, along with a robust infrastructure, skilled workforce, and customized incentive options.
In 2019, Cook County, located between Valdosta and Tifton, added a state-of-the-art healthcare facility, air separation plant, and blockchain data center to its expanding industrial base.
Highly visible along Interstate 75, the $50 million replacement facility for Southwell Medical Center (formerly Cook Medical Center) officially opened Oct. 1, 2019, and has already created 94 new jobs.
After two years of construction, the $40 million Messer Americas (formerly Linde Corp.) plant started production in early 2019. As the world’s largest privately-held industrial gases company, and leader in the production of atmospheric gases, Messer Americas specializes in the development and delivery of industrial, medical, and specialty gases.
In recruiting Messer Americas, Lisa Collins, executive director of the Cook County Economic Development Commission, says having an abundance of electrical power was a top industry strength.
“One of our biggest selling points is our ability to provide electrical power to industries at a competitive price,” she says. “If an industry needs more than 900 kilowatts of power, they can choose their electrical provider,” referencing Georgia’s competitive bid process known as Customer Choice.
“We can supply all the power Messer needs, thanks to an $8 million substation built by MEAG (Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia),” says Collins. “The substation provides more than enough power to meet Messer’s demands and more.”
The excess of power was also instrumental in Cook County’s recruitment of Blockstream, a bitcoin and blockchain technology company whose active customers include Fidelity Center for Applied Technology and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. With an initial $20 million investment and the creation of 25 jobs, Blockstream’s goal is to generate $270 million in capital investment and create up to 100 jobs in Cook County.
$53 million investment
In 2019, Decatur County celebrated the long-awaited opening of Taurus USA, a leading firearms manufacturer. The $38 million, 200,000-square-foot building includes a manufacturing facility and Taurus USA corporate headquarters.
Gov. Brian Kemp applauded Decatur County’s leadership in bringing more than 300 jobs to the region. During the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 5, Kemp stated, “The 300 jobs created at this facility will benefit hardworking Georgians and their families throughout the entire region.”
While Taurus USA is a significant economic win, Decatur County also gained three new companies, including Choice Rail Terminal, Harrell Ag Products, and Bull Built Trailers, with a combined investment of $4.2 million and creation of 95 jobs.
With a total of $10 million in expansion projects from Danimer Scientific, Georgia Gulf Sulfur, Southeastern Minerals, Steward Machine, and R Squared Solutions, Decatur County gained 53 jobs.
A potential industry loss became a win when Nivel Parts and Manufacturing, decided to keep its Grady County facility open and expand operations.
Nevil Parts and Manufacturing, North America’s largest independent provider of golf cart aftermarket parts and accessories, purchased the Madjax facility and considered various options, including closing the Grady County plant. Utilizing tax incentives from the state and the Grady County Joint Development Authority, Nivel Parts and Manufacturing decided to remain in Grady County and create approximately 80 new jobs.
“The company’s investment so far is around $800,000, which does not include the building they previously purchased,” said Julian Brown, executive director of the Grady Joint Development Authority. “It is important to note that had they not consolidated in Cairo, the building would have been vacated.”
$181 million investment
With 15 industry announcements, 2019 was a banner year for Lowndes County with 389 new jobs and approximately $181 million in capital investments.
Recognized nationally, LendEDU, a financial comparison website, named Valdosta as “one of the best-positioned cities for economic advancement in the new decade.” Through analyzing a variety of socioeconomic factors, including income growth, population chanted, and educational attainment, LendEDU ranked Valdosta #149 out of 400 U.S. cities.
“This ranking is reflective of the partnership of organization that provides education and skill development, job creation and retention, industry recruitment, and all the other key ingredients that promote our economic vitality here in Valdosta, Lowndes County,” says Andrea Schruijer, executive director of the Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority. “Our community has a lot of momentum heading into 2020.”
After a four-year recruitment process, construction started on a $123 million glass manufacturing facility for Arglass Yamamura, LLC. Expected to begin production in October 2020, Arglass will add approximately 150 new jobs to Lowndes County’s workforce.
In addition to Arglass, employment numbers in Lowndes County will continue to grow thanks to existing industry expansion from Ace Electric, Better Way Products, and CJB Industries.
With a new fabrication facility, Ace Electric will expand its footprint in Lowndes County with a $5.5 million facility and the addition of 15 jobs.
A leader in original equipment manufacturing, Better Way Products, based in Indiana, will invest $750,000 in equipment and renovations on its current 217,000-square-foot facility. The expansion will result in 86 new jobs during the next three years.
For more than 20 years, CJB Industries, Inc. has grown into a national leader in chemical manufacturing and chemical packaging services. In 2015, the company established CJB Applied Technologies to focus on assisting its customers with the formulation and commercial development of products, specifically in plant health and related areas.
Moving out from under CJB Industries into a standalone facility, CJB Applied Technologies started construction on a 10,000-square-foot facility in the Miller Business Park. The $2.5 million building will include laboratories, a small greenhouse for testing, and a nature walk.
Expanding their footprint in Camilla, Mitchell County, Tyson Foods, Inc., has completed a 35,000-square-foot expansion. The $34.2 million investment includes construction of a new “mega line” that prompted the company to hire 100 new team members as they increase operations in the region.
“Existing industries are the backbone of our communities,” says Paige Gilchrist, executive director for Mitchell County Development Authority. “Tyson Foods recent expansion is the perfect example of how important it is to have a good relationship with your existing industries. This project has boosted our economy and provided more jobs for our community. I look forward to continuing to work with Tyson Foods for many years to come.”
730 + jobs
With seven announcements representing new industries and expansion projects, Thomas County gained $126.5 million in investments and approximately 730 plus new jobs.
The most recent announcement is Walmart’s $90 million case-ready meat facility that will hire up to 400 people during the next four years.
Also making headlines in Thomas County was the opening of a $15 million plant for Check-Mate Industries. A family-owned company based in West Babylon, New York, Check-Mate Industries is projected to hire 230 employees.
New and expanding projects in Thomas County also include Brandt Information Services, Southern States Insulation, Sweet Grass Dairy, Red Chamber Seafood, and a downtown Marriott hotel.
Celebrating some big wins in 2019, Tift County announced 10 new and expansion industry projects totaling $105 million and the creation of more than 380 jobs.
Topping the list is a $60 million distribution and sales center for Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. The 300,000-square-foot facility will distribute approximately 4.5 million cases of non-alcoholic beverages annually. Scheduled to be completed in 2021, the company plans to hire 200 employees.
“Great things are happening in Tifton, Georgia, and we are excited to welcome Coca-Cola UNITED to Tifton as our newest corporate partner,” said Brian Marlowe, president and CEO of the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce and the Tift County Development Authority. “Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and the company’s decision to build a state-of-the-art facility in Tifton speaks volumes about our pro-business environment and strategic location.”
Tift County also reports the opening of two new distribution centers, including Associated Equipment, an HVAC company based out of Nashville, Tennessee, and Reinke Irrigation, an agricultural part and supplies company.
Hargray Communications is expanding its telecommunication services to the Tifton area with a new $5 million facility. The company expects to hire 18 full-time employees.
As a hub for agricultural research, the relocation of the Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation of Georgia to Tifton is a good fit. Expected to be fully operational by mid-year, the center will hire approximately 15 people.
Tift County also celebrated multiple expansion projects in 2019, including Heatcraft Refrigeration, Orgill, Cheney Brothers, PB2 Foods and Kelly Manufacturing Company.