b'ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTSituated in the middle of Georgias peanut belt,Ben Hill County has multiple peanut-based processing companies, including Protein Plus, MANA (Mother Administrative Nutritive Aid), and Golden Boy Foods.Jason Dunn: Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Development AuthorityNamed a Small Business Rock Star in 2017 by the GeorgiaSituated in the middle of Georgias peanut belt, Ben Hill County Department of Economic Development, the Littles recentlyhas multiple peanut-based processing companies, including opened a new production facility in Thomasville. With more thanProtein Plus, MANA (Mother Administrative Nutritive Aid), and 60 employees, Sweet Grass Dairy has become one the largestGolden Boy Foods.Southern artisan cheese brands. According to Jason Dunn, executive director of the Fitzgerald-This is the best story, says Zorn about the multi-generationalBen Hill County Development Authority, in the past few years, business. You have her mother and father experimenting withthe companies have made more than $50 million in combined cheese making, and now Jessica and Jeremy have opened a newcapital investments.Dunn also anticipates a significant production facility and are shipping Sweet Grass cheese acrossannouncement in 2022 that will further cement the community the county and internationally. as one of Georgias premier peanut butter producers.Another young entrepreneur success story is Grassroots Coffee.Fitzgerald is also home to Polar Beverages, which is seeing After opening its doors in 2009, the Downtown Thomasvillegrowth in the seltzer water market. Based in Worcester, coffee shop quickly became a local favorite. Within a few yearsMassachusetts, Polar Beverages Inc., is the largest independent of perfecting the art of coffee bean roasting, owners Spencerbottling company in the U.S., comprised of multiple beverages and Megan Young and business partner Ed Millere moved theincluding regular and diet flavors, seltzers and mixers.shops location across the street, started serving a light food menu, and expanded its retail and wholesale coffee distribution. This year, the second of two 100,000-square-foot distribution warehouses will be completed as part of an expansion project Now with a thriving wholesale business, which includes athat will see Polar double its production at its Fitzgerald facility.6,000-square-foot warehouse, Grassroots Coffee can be purchased in more than 200 retail stores, restaurants, and coffeeDonalsonville, Seminole Countyshops.In Seminole County, Georgia-based American Peanut Growers Group (APGG) recently announced an $85 million investment to Fitzgerald, Ben Hill County expand its current shelling plant, creating 90 new jobs, and open While not actually a nut but a legume, peanuts are Georgias topa food processing facility on its 45-acre campus. commodity, along with broilers. Grown in 76 counties, the Peach State produces about 1.64 million tons of peanuts each year.Headquartered in Donalsonville, and grower-owned, APGG produces approximately 200,000 tons of peanuts per 24 SG MAGAZINE| WINTER 2022 BUSINESS + CULTURE25'