VALDOSTA — See page 6A for related editorial
During the January meeting of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority, the board reviewed the mid-year report, heard updates on current projects, and devoted part of the meeting to criticizing the newspaper.
Board Member Roy Copeland was upset about a recent Times’ editorial that discussed restaurant closings since the 2014 year began. Copeland requested the mid-year report slideshow be reversed to show the slide displaying the 330 new jobs and said, “The impression is sometimes, and I get this from reading the local newspaper, that if there's no new industry coming in, then there's no job creation and development, when that is absolutely false.”
Schruijer supported Copeland's claim, and said, “Right. If you look back that the number for 2013, 70 percent of the new jobs created in the state of Georgia were from existing industries.”
Following the meeting, the Times requested information regarding the 330 job creation statement. Public relations representative Meghan Dukes replied that Express Scripts created 135 jobs, all home-based, customer service telephone jobs; Home Depot regional distribution center created 120 jobs and Regal Marine retained 75 jobs, its current entire work force, down from a high of more than 300 a few years ago.
When asked how many jobs have been lost in this time period for a gain/ loss ratio, Dukes quoted Department of Labor’s statistics showing that unemployment was down in Lowndes County in November 2013 to 7.3 percent but did not provide the number of jobs lost due to closings and layoffs.
Board Member Jerry Jennett also took issue with the Times because while he was making breakfast, he read a headline that said, “Local business did something very squirrelly, and I forget exactly what this business did, but I don't know, it said local business, so I am a businessman and so everybody that's in business is painted with a broad brush.”
The article Jennett was referring to was titled, “Business owner pleads guilty: Owner of former Lake Park firm faces sentencing on fraud charges.” The article was about a child support collection business pleading guilty in federal court to fraud charges.
Jennett continued, “The deal was it said, 'BUSINESS' is doing something criminal and (recording inaudible), I mean really folks. I am in business and it really started my day off.”
Andrea Schruijer, executive director, informed the board and attendees Mayor John Gayle and Chairman Bill Slaughter about the extent to which the Authority handles their business outreach campaigns. She said the Authority aggressively attends expos and conferences to network with as many consultants as possible.
Schruijer announced on Jan. 29, the Georgia Economic Development Agency will host a legislative luncheon in Atlanta, and the Authority has invited local legislators to attend with them. Staff is planning their retreat for Feb. 21 where they will discuss their goals for 2014- 2015 and will present their information to the board during the proposed board retreat in April.
Other items Schruijer announced included partcipation in the Georgia Quail Hunt in Feb., the Bird Supper sponsored by the City of Valdosta and Lowndes County, and the South Georgia Classic golf tournament in April.
Steve Gupton, attorney for the Industrial Authority, and Alan Ricketts, project manager, gave updates during the attorney's report about two companies planning to invest more than $2 million in capital investments and add 10 to 12 jobs.
The board unanimously agreed to move forward with these plans.
Ricketts gave the existing industry report which stated:
• Project Napoleon: is in progress and on schedule. A location has been picked and have developed a site plan and building concept. This should bring $7 million and create 20 jobs.
• Project Maroon: is in progress and on schedule. Staff has proposed a location for this project.
• Project JHS-14 (Residential and Commercial Building Products): Staff has identified a suitable location and is developing both site and building plans.
• Project Wire (Manufacturing): Project is in progress and on schedule. Staff has identified a suitable location and is developing both site and building plans. This project should bring $1.5 million in capital investments and retain 23 job and create 27 jobs.
• Project Treadway (Logistics/Distribution Services): Project is in progress and on schedule. This project is also developing site and building plans. Phase one of this project is expected to bring $2 million in capital investments, retain six jobs, and create 15 jobs.
• Project PowerTech (Advanced Manufacturing): Project is in progress and on schedule. Staff is working to refurbish/expand two existing buildings and acquire manufacturing equipment to support the expansion of existing product lines. This project is expected to bring $1.9 million , retain 20 jobs, and create 12 jobs.
• Project XX Squared (Manufacturing): Project is in progress and on schedule. Staff worked with company to develop an economic development incentive package to support the acquisition of manufacturing equipment to expand the existing manufacturing operation. This project should bring $1.2 million and create 60 jobs.
• Project GH 2013 (Specialty Product Formulation/Packaging): Project is in progress and on schedule. Staff worked to develop an economic development incentive package supporting the 80,000 sq ft. expansion of the manufacturing facility. This project should bring $2.3 million and create 10-12 jobs.
The Industrial Authority adjourned their meeting to discuss real estate matters in an executive session.