Valdosta Daily Times

November 20, 2013

Industrial Authority goes to France

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — In early November, Andrea Schruijer, executive director at Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority, took a successful “Prospect Development Trip” to France.

Schruijer, was invited on the trip by the Department of Economic Development.

“They trusted us (the Industrial Authority) to represent Georgia, so I met with international businesses looking to relocate or expand their businesses to the States,” Schruijer said during the authority's meeting Tuesday.

A European company, a medical manufacturing company, and one anonymous company expressed interest in relocating to Georgia, Schruijer said.

“I learned a lot. I met with people. I toured facilities, and I networked,” Schruijer explained. “If we were invited and we didn't show up, then we would have been left out of the conversation, and we would have ultimately been looked over, so this proved to be a great opportunity for the Valdosta-Lowndes area.”

While Schruijer was away, the Valdosta City Council unanimously voted to rezone and annex approximately 27 acres so that the Industrial Authority could expand the Miller Business Park.

Steve Gupton, Industrial Authority attorney, recommended that the Authority approve the final step in the expansion, which was to vote to purchase the property.

The Authority unanimously voted to purchase the 27 acres for $192,165. Gupton said that the property was appraised, but failed to give the value of the property.

The Authority also discussed another recent purchase – its new office facility located at 103 Roosevelt Drive.

The authority paid a total of $513,986.41 for the property, including the closing costs and ad valorem tax. Members contracted construction for the facility to the Kellerman Construction Company which cost $219,895. This bid was for the construction of a 1,250-square-foot additional meeting room which will be attached to the existing building.

Allan Ricketts, Industrial Authority project manager, informed the Authority that the Kellerman Construction Company plans to begin construction on Dec. 1, and the Authority plans to be moved into the facility on June 30, 2014.

Giving the financial report, Andrea Schruijer, informed the Authority that it is over budget on millage revenue by $346,497.

“It's too early to determine if this is a trend of improved collections or just a timing difference between years,” Schruijer said.

The Authority is under budget for rent by $4,265, over budget for accounting cost by $5,590, and under budget for prospect development/trade show by $3,904.

Meghan Duke, the Authority's public relations and marketing manager, gave the public relations update.

The Great Promise Partnership meeting was on Oct. 25, and Duke said that it was a huge success because they will begin preparing for the program in January, and begin implementing it in either summer, or fall. This partnership will give high school students the ability to work at local businesses while attending classes.

Duke attended a meeting in Tifton for the Georgia Competitive Initiative Meeting to discuss agribusiness in Georgia.

Honoring Wiregrass Georgia Technical College and the South Georgia Medical Center, Duke said, “Wiregrass had the highest job-rate placement since 2008, and the SGMC was voted as the large hospital of the year for 2013. These are some things that we use to promote Valdosta because they showcase the workforce in our community.”

Continuing the discussion about growth in our area, Schruijer informed the Authority that Valdosta was voted as number one for Site Selection Magazine.

“We've always been in the Top 10, but we've never made it past fourth place,” Schruijer said. “This is in part due to Gov. Nathan Deal because he made us pro business and more business friendly.”

Ricketts gave an update on the expanding and existing businesses.

– Project Maroon remains on course; the company continues to do its due diligence, and is still in the site-selection phase.

– Project Express Scripts is in the final stages of Phase One. The first cohort of 135 employees is training, and the company is considering adding a second phase. This phase would begin in mid 2014, and would include 125 additional employees.

– Project Harvest had a good showing at the Sun Belt Expo because they revealed their new digger equipment.

Addressing the existing industry, Ricketts said, “We are always looking to expand.”

– The Authority worked with the Department of Labor for the past 30 days assessing the skills of local workers for Project Wire.

– Project Treadway has a site plan and is looking to move forward with those plans within the next two weeks.

– Project PowerTech is a new project for the Authority including a financial company looking to expand.

– Project Patient is working and has found a home.

Valdosta-Lowndes Industrial Authority Chairman Mary B. Gooding said, “It's great that we're highlighting our local businesses.”

Rickett's final report involved the signage at the existing Industrial Authority Business Parks.

The Authority added additional signs to all of its parks, except for one. The signs currently have the name of the park, but some parks are missing the Authority's logo. Ricketts told the Authority that this situation will be resolved within 15 days.

Gretchen Quarterman spoke during the citizens to be heard portion of the meeting.

Quarterman recommended that the Authority get involved with the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization, South Georgia Regional Development Center because MPO Coordinator Corey Hull is requesting that citizens fill out quick surveys in an effort to better all of Lowndes County.