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LCDA celebrates 2020 successes

Dear Editor:

Despite a year impacted by Covid-19, the Liberty County Development Authority took significant actions and had a lot to celebrate at its December meeting.  

While a few companies experienced some decreases in employment due to Covid-19, the majority held their own, one had remarkable growth, and several new ones opened creating additional employment opportunities in 2020.

Target employment grew from 800 to approximately 1,200 as its business soared.  Target opened in Liberty County in 2008 and maintained steady employment in the 450-500 range until 2018, when its growth skyrocketed.  

2020 also saw the creation of new employment with the openings of Balta, Marine Containers South, and Western Power Sports.  Balta is a Foreign Direct Investment from Belgium, while Marine Containers South and Western Power Sports are expansions from Savannah and Idaho, respectively.  

Balta and Marine Containers South located in the Midway Industrial Park, while Western Power Sports opened in Tradeport East Business Center. The three companies are projected to create approximately 200 new jobs.

Additional jobs were also placed in the queue as the Authority authorized Chairman Allen Brown to sign industrial bond issues for $47,000,000 and $7,000,000 to fund real and personal property for a new 1,400,000 SF distribution center in Tradeport East.  

800,000 SF of the 1,400,000 SF building being built by Tradeport East LLC will be leased to the recently announced Hooker Furniture Corporation, headquartered in Virginia.  

The Authority also acted to facilitate additional growth at the increasingly successful Tradeport East by approving a $2,395,000 contract with Caldwell Tanks, Inc. for the construction of a new 500,000 elevated water tank, the second water tank in the park.  The new tank will ensure prospective companies the pressure and flow of water needed for fire protection and safety.

The Authority also approved participation in the funding and construction of 12 additional hangars at MidCoast Regional Airport at WAAF.  The Authority administers the civilian sector of the joint-use military/civilian airport in a partnership with the Liberty County Board of Commissioners and the City of Hinesville that was formed to provide civilian general aviation operations at Ft. Stewart’s Wright Army Air Field.  

The Authority also celebrated passage of the Freeport Fulfillment Center Referendum in the November election, recognizing it would help retain existing distribution center jobs and facilitate attracting new ones.  

The Authority voiced appreciation for the Board of Commissioners authorizing the referendum and the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce for its significant efforts in educating voters on the need for passage.

The meeting concluded with the presentation of FY-20 Financial Statements, a glowing FY-20 Audit Report, and a validation of the value of the Authority’s incentive policies.  Kay Proctor with Lanier, Deal & Proctor presented the FY-20 Financial Statements and Trey Scott with the auditing firm of Mauldin & Jenkins presented the report.  Both expressed appreciation to the Authority’s Director of Operations & Business Development Carmen Cole for her professional assistance in the provision of documents.

Mr. Scott reported a “clean, unmodified opinion with no audit findings,” indicative of Staff’s professional financial management and Board’s oversight.  Board members expressed particular appreciation for Management’s reporting of the value of financial abatements currently being provided to several companies relative to the financial benefits received from those companies in the form of wages and salaries.  

The $4,346,142 in abatements offered to help recruit companies to the county yielded $86,101,816 in wages and salaries in FY-20 alone.  An impressive return on investment of 20 to 1.  This return is expected to increase even more as the companies add additional employees.

Board and Staff both looked forward to a productive 2021, given the anticipation of a reduced impact from Covid-19 and the opening of the newly announced companies.

Pat Watkins, 

Communication/Program Manager, LCDA

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