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LCDA touts new jobs, improved infrastructure

More than 200 new jobs, and infrastructure to attract more are among Liberty County Development Authority’s 2019 accomplishments.

“We’ve had a good year,” LCDA CEO Ron Tolley said. “Three new companies located in our industrial parks and we continue to make improvements in those parks.”

The new industries are Western Power Sports (WPS), a Boise, ID-based distributor of power sport accessories; Balta Home USA, part of a Belgium company that distributes household goods; and Marine Container South, a warehouse and freight operation based in New Jersey. WPS built a 240,000 square-foot building in Tradeport East Business Park. Balta and Marine Container are refurbishing buildings in Midway Industrial Park.

The new businesses in Midway IP occupied buildings once occupied by IG Design Group (formerly Gift Wrap Co.) Design Group has consolidated its operation into one building in the park, maintaining its North American headquarters and distribution operations in the park. 

Both Western Power Sports and Balta plan to have approximately 100 workers within the first few years of operation. They are currently organizing their workforces.

The main goal of LCDA is to attract jobs to the county by improving its economy. And LCDA Board Chairman Allen Brown said he thought activity last year showed the goal was being met.

“When Western Power Sports and Balta Home are at full employment there will be more than 3,700 industrial jobs in the county,” Brown, who is also Hinesville’s mayor, said. “These are good paying jobs that attract people to work and perhaps live here.”

The county’s largest industrial employer in 2019 remained SNF Holding, which has an estimated 1,700 workers at its Riceboro polymer plant. Two industries that made significant increases to their employment numbers are in Tradeport East Business Center. Employment at the Target distribution center is now over 700, according to company officials. And Arconic Engines, which manufactures parts for jet engines, is pushing 300, according to its manager, Ryan Latham.

The county’s location has helped attract industry.

“We have chosen Liberty County mainly for the location close to the port of Savannah and as a great hub for servicing the East Coast,” Hans Fossez, president of Balta Home USA, said.

Marine Container owner Joe Noonan said he had similar feelings about moving into Midway Industrial Park. 

“We decided to move to Liberty County due to the proximity to the Savannah Port, I-95 and what we believe to be the future of the area,” Noonan said. “The industrial park that we are located in is very close to both, and is easily accessible and safe. Additionally, from Midway, we can transport freight south to Jacksonville, west to Atlanta and north along the coast.

“We believe Midway and Liberty County to be a great location and are happy to be part of the community.”

Marine Container plans to have about a dozen employees when it is in full operation, according to Noonan.

Another part of LCDA’s work through 2019 was to make the county an even better location for businesses. That included completion of the extension of Sunbury Road through Tradeport East. Much of the paving of the 3,900-foot extension was completed in 2018, but the finishing touches were completed in 2019.

Extension of the road also led to the opening of M.L. Coffer Court, which is named for the former Chairman of the Liberty County Board of Commissioners. Coffer also served as Chairman of the LCDA board. 

The immediate aim of M.L. Coffer Court was to provide access to Western Power Sports’ new distribution facility. But it also opens access to 250 acres of additional developable land in the southeast part of Tradeport East.

Another part of LCDA’s work is helping companies locate or expand facilities in the county. And in December the board authorized issuance of $20 million in bonds to support WPS locating here. The company will repay the revenue bonds. 

The state also helped improve the business climate in the county. The Department of Community Affairs announced early last year that a tax break for businesses that create jobs in counties with large military presence had been approved by the Legislature.

LCDA promoted the new Military Zone incentive in national advertisements and mailings. It allows businesses to earn up to $17,500 per job over five years against corporate income taxes when they create at least two jobs and meet criteria on wages and benefits. The jobs have to be created in Census tracts where LCDA has industrial parks. The three Military Zones in Liberty County cover more than 100,000 acres. Any type of business, not just industry, can qualify for the incentives.

“This can be a major benefit for a business establishing itself in the county,” Tolley said.

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