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Big companies bring big competition
0117 Ron Tolley
Ron Tolley - photo by Photo provided.

When metalworks giant Firth Rixson first came a-callin’, Liberty County wasn’t the only hot spot it looked at as a potential new home, but the Liberty County Development Authority took great strides to ensure it landed the European-based manufacturer, all while making sure Firth Rixson would boost the economy and raise the local level of prosperity.

Talk of bringing Firth Rixson to Liberty County began last summer and throughout negotiations the development authority kept the employer’s name secret — at the company’s request — citing competition concerns for the company. Firth Rixson’s identity was unveiled at a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this month.

But the LCDA also faced competition from nearby counties and their development companies as well as neighboring South Carolina. "It was extremely close, very competitive," development authority CEO Ron Tolley said. "It came down to a final day in Atlanta, meeting with the company."

The victory for Liberty County means Firth Rixson is well on its way to establishing itself in the Tradeport East business park near Midway. The manufacturer has the rare distinction these days of being a company that not only has purchased the land on which it is building but also is paying for its building.

To that end, companies like Firth Rixson often receive incentives from state and local authorities to help spur them into establishing a presence. Firth Rixson will receive some sales tax exemption on machinery and equipment as well as job tax credits, Tolley said.

Additionally, the state contributed about $1.5 million to the project, much of which goes to the development authority to help establish infrastructure such as roads, water, sewer and water reuse lines. Of that amount, OneGeorgia Authority gave $1 million and the state’s department of community affairs gave $500,000; Firth Rixson assisted LCDA in applying for the state funding.

The LCDA also took an extra step to provide incentives to Firth Rixson — a sizeable step that it would normally not have taken but for the size of the project and the potential impact of the company on the community, Tolley said.

He said the funding for locally derived incentives is built into the authority’s budget but added that whatever the authority gives, he thinks the community will receive back through Firth Rixson’s job opportunities. "Their payroll will be substantial, far more than what we put in," he said.

Tolley emphasized that because of the competition between Liberty and two other area counties in pursuing Firth Rixson, sharing the specifics of the incentive would likely make it more difficult in the future for the LCDA to successfully woo potential businesses of a similar size.

"Since the other two counties lost out, their competition will be stronger, and they may turn around and use it [the knowledge of Liberty County’s work] to their advantage," he said.

That being said, if LCDA were unsuccessful in wooing a company, Tolley said the authority would assist neighboring counties in getting it to move there. "If we knew we couldn’t get it, we’d be helping another community get it. It is to the benefit of all of coastal Georgia," he said.

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