VALDOSTA -- Selling a community to a potential developer is a difficult task even in the best of circumstances, but when you don't know anything about the company, the level of difficulty increases tremendously.

Faced with just that scenario, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority hosted a potential new business in an all-day session on Monday, bringing together community leaders to answer questions for the prospect, and ensuring that Valdosta is one of the finalists in the site selection process.

Authority Executive Director Ken Garren, at the Authority board meeting Tuesday, stated that the company representatives were introduced only by their first names and the Authority was not provided any information concerning the name of the company, where they are currently located or exactly what they produce.

"All we know is that they are a manufacturing and distribution company needing a 185,000 to 200,000 square foot building built to exact specifications. They will hire 175 to 225 employees, and they are on a fast track to get this done," he said.

The company was brought to Valdosta by the Georgia Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Georgia Power, and a consulting firm hired by the company to assist with site selection. Monday was the third visit made by company representatives.

Authority Chairman Jerome Tucker said, "We were able to answer every question they had, and we didn't know beforehand what the questions would be."

Tucker congratulated the staff on putting together an excellent presentation and thanked all of the community leaders who participated on the "sales team," including Valdosta Mayor James H. Rainwater, Authority attorney Steve Gupton, Authority accountant Tom Davis, ASA Engineering's Bill Kent and representatives from Lowndes County, Valdosta Technical College, Valdosta State University, and the Department of Labor.

"I can't stress enough the importance of showing a united community front," said Tucker. "We have a lot to be proud of, and we did a great job of impressing them."

Tucker said the Authority even went so far as to provide transportation to the company delegation to visit Waycross, one of the communities under consideration, after their plane was grounded due to bad weather Monday afternoon.

Garren said the Authority expects to hear something soon about the company's intentions.

In other business, the Authority heard updates concerning a number of other projects, including:

A California-based company is expanding to Valdosta and will locate in the Azalea City Industrial Park. The Authority is waiting on permission from the company to release its name and additional information.

Southern Warehousing is considering a location in the Perimeter East park and the Authority is surveying the property. The acreage will be offered to the company for $13,000 an acre plus administrative fees.

Construction on the new Letica Corporation building in the Azalea East park is on schedule, with the final building size expected to be 178,000 square feet.

Super Cooker has requested an additional plot of land next to their current location in the Lake Park Industrial Park. The Authority voted to offer the 1.5 acre tract to the company for $7,000 per acre with an incentive for an existing industry of the waiving of two thirds of the administrative fee, reducing it to $1,000.

An unknown company, dubbed Project Melon, is currently looking at Valdosta for a distribution center. The company needs rail service and would construct a 200,000 square foot facility. The city is the only site under consideration with the exception of a building in a county in suburban Atlanta.

Two of the four principals from Project Cotton, a new business incorporated as Rockwood Composites Inc., attended the meeting to thank the Authority for its assistance and stated they are looking forward to working with the Authority on potentially locating in the county.

Valdosta-Lowndes County was eliminated by Project Law, a company needing a mega-site for a nearly 1,000,000 square foot building as no site met all of its requirements. Although a suitable site was found in the Lake Park Industrial Park, the company needed natural gas, which was not available.

To contact Business Editor Kay Harris, please call 244-3400, ext. 280.

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