Summertime has a history of being relatively slow when it comes to economic development, without many prospective companies planning trips to check out communities for their businesses. However, Industrial Development Authority Executive Director Kyle Fletcher was happy to report that had not been the case for Thomaston and Upson County as of late, with the community seeing several prospects make repeat trips to the area.
Fletcher updated the IDA board on two prospects that have been in town recently at their July meeting. The first she mentioned is Project Sapphire, which has toured the Blackstock building, in both June and July. She noted rail access is vital for this company and a Norfolk Southern representative was present at the meetings. Upson County is the only location in Georgia this company is considering, but they are looking at five other southern states as potential locations.
The second prospect Fletcher mentioned is Project Spring, which is possibly interested in the Clearwater building. Representatives for the company have toured Upson County twice and Fletcher feels that is a good sign.
“Anytime you can have a follow-up visit from a prospect, that is great news,” Fletcher told the board.
Last month, Fletcher, along with County Commission Chairman Rusty Blackston and State Representative Johnnie Caldwell, Jr., traveled to Atlanta to meet with Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden to talk about the turn lane project for Highway 36. The proposed turn lane would help alleviate traffic and safety concerns at the entrance to Intefor, which had 21,500 trucks in and out of the plant in 2013. The company is also in the process of expanding and expects that number to increase greatly. Fletcher told the board this is a county project and a $100,000 LMIG grant has already been given to go towards it, however the county will still have a 30 percent match of funding in the project.
During their meeting, in addition to thanking the GDOT for the LMIG money, the group also inquired about gaining additional funding for the project. Fletcher stated they were told to get bids on the project first so there would be a better idea about how much the total project will cost. She also noted one unexpected issue had come up already in dealing with the moving of the utility pole at the proposed location. Fletcher stated she was under the impression Georgia Power would move the pole at no cost because it is on the right-of-way. However, she was informed by the company the IDA will have to pay over $65,000 to have it moved because it is not located in the right-of-way. She noted Georgia Power may have some funding set aside for economic development to help offset the cost, but she is unsure at this time. Georgia Power is a major provider for Intefor.
In other business, the board approved a proposed budget for 2015 of $507,685, which Fletcher noted is roughly $60,000 more than last year’s budget. She attributed the increase to eight additional line items that have been added which include insurance, payroll services and audit services since the IDA is transitioning to being a standalone entity and no longer under the Upson County Government umbrella. Fletcher also stated the existing debt for the IDA was added into the budget as part of the transition, the IDA will issue the payments on that instead of the county. The City of Thomaston will contribute 37 percent and Upson County will contribute 63 percent towards the payments.
Finally, IDA board member Steve Daniel told the rest of the board he will be stepping down at the end of his term, which ends December 31 of this year. Daniel cited the travel requirements with his new job as President of West Central Georgia Technical College would hinder him from being able to participate on the board any longer. However, he told the board he would still be glad to help in any way he can be of service.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1