Local officials are reacting favorably to an announcement that a worldwide furniture company has selected east Liberty County for its newest distribution center.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and officials of Hooker Furniture Corp. recently announced that a division of Hooker, Home Meridian International (HMI), will open a new, custom-built 800,000-square-foot distribution facility in Tradeport East Business Center in Liberty County. The $23.5 million investment will create 50 new jobs in the area.
“We are pleased and excited that HMI, a company with a reputation for being a good corporate citizen, has selected Tradeport East Business Center as the best location in coastal Georgia to make a substantial investment for its future growth,” said Liberty County Development Authority Chairman Allen Brown.
“I welcome Home Meridian International to Liberty County,” State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, said. “I especially welcome the jobs it brings. I’ve advocated my whole career for local jobs. We want young people who grow up here to be able to find work here if they want to stay. This project is a step along that path.”
Williams is also vice-chairman of LCDA. Brown is also mayor of Hinesville.
Paul B. Toms Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Hooker, also had jobs on his mind. “The State of Georgia, the Liberty County Development Authority and the developer, Safavieh, have been great partners to work with. We value the workforce in this area and look forward to contributing to the local economy and being involved in the community, as we are in every community where we have a presence.”
Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette also noted the jobs, but zeroed in on the overall economic impact.
“This is good news for everyone in Liberty County,” Lovette, who also serves on the LCDA Board of Directors, said. “When companies invest here the taxpayers benefit, the property owners benefit, other businesses benefit. It’s especially good when it is a well-established, strong company like Hooker.
U.S.-owned HMI maintains locations around the globe, with recognized brands under its portfolio that include Pulaski Furniture, Samuel Lawrence Furniture, Samuel Lawrence Hospitality, Prime Resources International, Accentrics Home, and HMIdea. Liberty County will become one of its strategically located distribution centers, which can reach nearly all of the U.S. population within 36 hours, reducing transportation costs, and increasing operating efficiencies. The location’s proximity to the Port of Savannah played a major role in the project, as the company is expected to import more than 8,000 cargo container units a year.
For LCDA Board Member and Secretary Melissa Carter-Ray the news was welcomed personally, as well as economically.
“This is great,” Ray said. “I have been purchasing Hooker furniture for over 15 years now. And the economic impact for the community on jobs, payroll, good salaries, potential growth for Liberty County all add up to good news.”
In his announcement, the governor also praised the company and the area.
“We’re excited to welcome this well-known, internationally respected brand to the Peach State,” Kemp said. “With our world-class ports, skilled workforce, and strong community support, I’m confident HMI will find success in establishing their new distribution center in Liberty County. I look forward to seeing the new opportunities this facility will create for hardworking Georgians in the region.”
LCDA’s Chairman also said that Hooker’s decision affirms Liberty County’s reputation among industries.
“Like the other corporations that have preceded them in selecting and investing in Tradeport East, we are confident that HMI will also find that Liberty County is a prime location to Come Grow Globally!” Brown said.
Chairman Lovette expressed it this way, “The presence of Hooker Furniture will both enhance our present pool of industrial partners and serve as a recruitment tool for future prospects.”
Toms added that Liberty’s proximity to the Port of Savannah weighed in Hooker’s decision.
“We are pleased by the opportunity to better support our customers through consolidating our HMI inventory in this state-of-the-art, high-bay, 800,000-square-foot facility located near the major Port of Savannah,” the company CEO said. “As robust demand for products serviced out of our warehouses continues to increase, this will better position us to grow.
In September, the Port of Savannah serviced the largest ship ever to call on the U.S. East Coast. The Georgia Ports Authority also announced that August was the Port’s best-ever month on record, following the news that the Port earned the status as the top port in the nation for U.S. exports.
“The Georgia Ports Authority is proud to support the expansion of jobs and opportunity in Liberty County,” said Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch. “Georgia’s unmatched connectivity by road and rail, combined with the Port of Savannah’s broad global network, make this state the perfect location for logistics operations like HMI’s.”
“The decision of HMI to establish a presence in Georgia shows that the growth of the global e-commerce industry is supported by our logistics network. This includes the Georgia ports, highway infrastructure, our railway system and the world‘s busiest airport,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson. “I congratulate our economic development partners in Liberty County and thank them for helping win this project for Georgia and proactively getting this site GRAD-certified.”