As construction equipment kicked up dust in the background, Caesarstone USA broke ground on its first North American manufacturing facility in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the Belfast Commerce Centre in Richmond Hill.
Dozens of state, county and city officials attended the event and many spoke before Caesarstone Chief Executive Officer Yos Shiran took the podium.
“Thank you for joining us in celebrating this important milestone for Caesarstone,” Shiran said, giving those in the audience an introduction to the company that is expected to bring 180-200 jobs to the new industrial park in about 18 months.
Shiran pointed out the company’s product, quartz materials used in countertops, is marketed in 50 countries and in tens of thousands of showrooms around the world. Demand in the U.S. is growing, he said, and setting up shop here will “help us to better service the American consumer and bring Caesarstone to the homes and hearts of the American people.”
Shiran said the company chose the Belfast Commerce Centre “following thorough research.”
“We have found here a combination of a highly skilled workforce, strong logistical infrastructure … and a welcoming state, county and city,” he said, promising the company will “be a pioneer” in the new park, which was just annexed into Richmond Hill.
It’s unclear what state and local incentives were used to attract Caesarstone, which officials said looked at some 70 sites around the South. But the company has purchased a tract in the new park for $1.47 million, according to deeds on file at the county courthouse.
At Tuesday’s groundbreaking, state, county and local officials were ebullient in both their praise of the company and in the efforts to bring it here.
“There are a lot of reasons this happened and a lot of people that are owed gratitude from all citizens of our county for all the hard work that went into making this a reality,” said Development Authority of Bryan County Chairman Steve Croy, who opened his remarks with “Shalom.”
Croy introduced speakers, who ranged from state Sen. Buddy Carter and state Rep. Ron Stephens to Chris Carr, head of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Rayonier’s Dan Camp.
Local officials also spoke, including Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler and Jimmy Burnsed, chairman of the Bryan County Board of Commissioners.
Carr passed along congratulations from Gov. Nathan Deal while praising the state’s Quickstart program to help attract manufacturers.
“It is exciting to see a leading global manufacturing company choose Georgia,” he said, noting the state is home to more than 40 companies based in Israel before wishing both the company and Richmond Hill “mazel tov,” a Hebrew word meaning “congratulations” and a wish for good luck.
Carter, former mayor of Pooler, said Richmond Hill and Bryan County’s best times may lie ahead. He told those from Caesarstone they made a good decision.
“Let me assure you, you’ve made a wise choice (by coming) here,” Carter said. “You will find the people of Bryan County and the surrounding area a committed people. You will find them a hard-working people, who will make sure you are successful in your business.”
Stephens praised the community’s quality of life and good schools.
Fowler thanked TerraPointe, county commissioners and others for their role in the city’s annexation of the industrial park, which is prized for its proximity to the Savannah port, rail lines and I-95.
“A month ago this property wasn’t officially a part of Richmond Hill,” he said.
Burnsed noted that Caesarstone is the first industry to move into the city “in decades.”
“The city is honored … we look forward to a long prosperous relationship with Caesarstone,” he said.
Burnsed referred to the Talmud, the Hebrew bible.
“According to the Talmud, God created the universe in six days. He’s been arranging marriages ever since. And, according to the Talmud, 40 days before a male is conceived, a voice from heavan announces whose daughter he is to marry,” Burnsed said. “With that in mind, I am sure that what we are experiencing today is a marriage made in heaven.
“We have been through a lot. The courting period is over with. The dowry has been agreed upon. The marriage has been consummated by many documents signed and approved and witnessed by a bunch of lawyers,” Burnsed continued. “And it’s done. The deal is done. Over the next 12-15 months, this building will come out of the ground, 78-foot tall. And out of that building will start coming the product that Caesarstone has developed. And they’re going to sell that product … and it’s going to bring prosperity to Caesarstone, to Richmond Hill and to Bryan County, and it is a big cotton-picking deal. Shalom.”