The Liberty County Development Authority approved a contract Tuesday morning with The McDonald Firm LLC of Atlanta to lobby the state legislature for $4 million in funds to extend the runway at MidCoast Regional Airport.
“For them (the state) to award us twice, we have to have some help,” said Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, referring to a $4.75 million line item adopted by the Georgia General Assembly during the 2013 legislative session for a new and expanded Armstrong Atlantic State University campus to be built on Hinesville’s Memorial Drive. The Savannah-based university currently has a Liberty Center on East Gen. Stewart Way.
“We’re in better shape money-wise but there’s a longer line,” said state Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, who also serves on the authority.
The authority discussed hiring the law firm during a called emergency meeting.
According to a letter from attorney Jimmy McDonald addressed to LCDA Chairman Allen Brown and Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, the firm would lobby for specific appropriations projects, monitor day-to-day actions for regulatory and legislative activities affecting the city (and authority), and assist both the city and the authority in “continuing to build and maintain a political network with the Georgia General Assembly.”
The authority agreed to pay $2,000 per month to retain the law firm for 12 months.
Jimmy McDonald told authority members, via a phone conference, he is a Liberty County native. He graduated from Bradwell Institute in 1993, and former Hinesville Mayor Buddy Deloach helped him get an internship in 1998. McDonald said he previously was employed by Nelson Mullins law firm. The Atlanta lawyer said he left the larger firm to establish his own firm because a conflict of interest arose with a client while he was at Nelson Mullins.
In late October, the civilian joint-management board for the MidCoast Regional Airport at Wright Army Airfield met with a potential industrial client to discuss a proposed lease agreement. The Liberty County Commission, the city of Hinesville and the development authority collaborate on overseeing the airport. Liberty County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette, Thomas and Brown are voting members on the airport’s joint-management board.
The unnamed company’s representatives voiced concerns over the airport’s proposed runway- and tarmac-expansion projects. The proposed runway expansion would extend the runway from 5,000 to 6,500 feet, confirmed development authority CEO Ron Tolley.
Representatives from the prospective industrial client said in October that the proposed runway and tarmac expansions are necessary for them to bring in heavy aircraft with wingspans of 84 feet. In addition, the company executives said they want the airport to refurbish the existing hangar and build two more hangars to accommodate the company’s bigger planes, as well as provide needed office space and storage.
Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the authority approved a request by Elan Technology to subdivide property in Midway Industrial Park. Elan Technology plans to sell the plant to another manufacturer that wishes to retain current employees and expand existing plant facilities, Tolley said.
Elan Technology CEO P.A. “Takis” (Tak) Argentinis told the Courier he could not comment on the buyer’s identity or the timeline of the pending sale due to a non-disclosure agreement.
In a letter to the authority dated Jan. 13, Argentinis wrote that in order for the buyer to expand existing plant facilities, it is necessary to subdivide the plant property, separating 3.513 acres for the expansion from the 18.445 acres on which the plant is located.
“I will enter into two separate leases with the purchaser after the acreage has been subdivided,” Argentinis wrote. “One lease will be a sublease for the larger parcel with the existing improvements. The second lease will be a ground lease on the remaining 3.513 acres, which is the vacant land. This will give the purchaser the ability to obtain a construction loan using the ground lease and the 3.513 acres as collateral.”
According to its website, Elan Technologies is in the glass, ceramic and toll spray drying industry and is the largest independent U.S. company in its field, producing pre-forms for hermetic seals and spacers using technical glass, ceramics and glass ceramic composites.