Soon, Bulloch County will join three others along Interstate 16 to form an alliance designed to encourage economic growth in the area.
Bulloch County commissioners voted Tuesday to join a regional economic development consortium with Bryan, Chatham and Effingham counties that aims to capitalize on the increased commerce expected to result from deepening of the Savannah harbor in the next few years.
"I just see a golden opportunity for Bulloch County to get a lot of jobs" from the move, said Bulloch County Commissioner Roy Thompson. "I think it would be very positive to undertake this project."
The Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority will include an eight-member board, two from each of the counties, according to information provided to each commissioner before the meeting Tuesday.
The authority is being formed to enhance regional cooperation in efforts to lure potential large-scale development projects to the area.
Chatham County commissioners are expected to meet Friday to vote on the alliance, while both Bryan and Effingham counties have already approved the move.
According to a previous interview about the project, Benjy Thompson, the CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, said the regional authority will help improve communication and the ability to coordinate resources for industries looking to locate along the I-16 corridor.
The deepening of the harbor will begin soon. Last summer, President Barack Obama authorized the project to move forward, and in October, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Georgia Department of Transportation and Georgia Ports Authority signed a project partnership agreement that paves way for the expansion to begin.
Commissioners have said the authority will benefit Bulloch County, which Thompson said has already shown success in attracting large industries to the area, including the Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Great Dane and Briggs & Stratton.
The Development Authority of Bulloch County will continue to pursue those kinds of projects. The new alliance is similar to a number of joint development authorities in Georgia. Bulloch County is a member of one formed in 1994 called the Middle Coastal Unified Development Authority, with 12 other counties, including the three with which Bulloch will work on the I-16 corridor authority, Thompson said.
Bulloch County commissioners did not discuss the project in detail Tuesday but approved a motion by Commissioner Carolyn Etheridge to join the other three counties in the effort. The motion was unanimously approved.
Commissioners also voted during Tuesday's meeting to move forward with plans to secure funding and begin road improvement efforts, including restriping and paving some of the county's most troublesome dirt roads.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.