Valdosta Daily Times

May 4, 2014

Reinvesting in Valdosta

Local expansions and remodelings reinvest in Valdosta

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — There are a few ways you can take the temperature of your local economy, if you have a mind to.

An obvious one is to check the local unemployment level.

While the just-released April jobs report for the country shows an average 6.3 percent unemployment rate nationwide, the report for Metro Valdosta in March showed the unemployment rate unchanged from February’s 7.0 percent.

The same report showed a small growth in overall job numbers, with 100 jobs added between February and March, putting Metro Valdosta’s total at 54,000.

Another is to look for new businesses opening — an indicator if a good number of local entrepreneurs are willing to bet on the economy.

A third way that generates less headlines and is a little harder to measure is the willingness of established companies to reinvest in themselves, to double down on their bet on the local economy, expanding and/or remodeling operations.

That’s exactly what Langdale Ford is doing with its downtown location, taking it through a million-dollar renovation project during the next few months. When it’s finished near the end of summer, the entire building will have been painted, minus the service area.

Inside, the dealership is refurbishing with new paint, tiles, lighting, carpeting and furniture.

“We find that the downtown location works well for us,” said Steve Everett, Langdale Ford general manager. “People do business in three different places: where they work, where they shop and where they live. We chose to do where they work.”

The renovation work won’t interfere with the dealership’s daily business.

Langdale Ford’s reinvesting in its location is part of a series of recent expansions and remodelings in the region.

Sam’s Club started its expansion in the middle of 2013, working on it through April of this year. The expansion added 30,000 square feet of space to Sam’s, allowing it to extend its grocery and clothes offerings as well as add a hearing-aid center.

South Georgia Medical Center opened its $64 million Dasher Memorial Heart Center and Patient Tower last August. The 130,000-square-foot building fulfilled several roles for SGMC, consolidating its cardiology services all under one roof, adding a new cath lab and new patient rooms for the first time since the 1980s.

There have been recent smaller renovations.

The Wendy’s on St. Augustine went through a complete rebuilding last year, with the old building replaced by a more modern design with floor-to-ceiling windows.

The Rite-Aid on North Oak Street has been renovated.

The jury’s still out on what the local and national economy will be like the rest of the year, with some experts predicting a slow, cautious recovery and others predicting more of the same.

With the willingness of local companies to reinvest in their operations, a cautious optimism may be the way to go.