The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners in partnership with the Development Authority of Bulloch County recently successfully competed for and received $5 million in state and federal grants.
The windfall will pay for infrastructure improvements necessary for the construction of the new Great Dane Trailers manufacturing facility in phase two of the Gateway Industrial Park, just south of Statesboro.
"The money is being used for roadwork around the location as well as for storm water drainage including retention ponds," said Bulloch County manager Tom Couch. "We were going to have to do these things regardless, but in the end, these grants will allow us to keep our sales tax money for other projects. These grants have virtually eliminated the investment of local tax dollars into these infrastructure improvements."
All in all, the county has been awarded four grants including $2 million from the One Georgia Authority, $1.3 million from the Georgia Department of Transportation, $1.2 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, and $500,000 from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in the form of a Community Development Block Grant.
The block grant program allows local governments to compete for resources that can be used to assist public-private partnerships that leverage private investment and benefit low and moderate-income persons through economic development, public facilities, public infrastructure and neighborhood revitalization projects.
In 2004, the Development Authority of Bulloch County purchased 350 acres of land to enlarge the Gateway Regional Industrial Park forming Gateway II. When Great Dane decided to construct its newest manufacturing plant there, officials knew a substantial investment in infrastructure would have to be made by both the city and county.
"The city has been responsible for providing the infrastructure for the water, sewer, and natural gas for Gateway II," said Couch. "The county has invested approximately $10 million in SPLOST funds and grants in phase II as well. You can see that it requires a great deal of money to develop an industrial park, to provide good jobs for our citizens. That is why we were all so thrilled to get these grants. It is a tremendous help."
Couch said that SPLOST monies earmarked for Gateway II that are not going to be needed for infrastructure could be used to enhance the park.
"It would be nice if we could improve the aesthetics of the park," he said. "From street scaping to entrance monuments, there are a number of things that could be done. We don't live in a smokestack world anymore, and corporations want their manufacturing facilities to look nice and professional. I think anything that we can do in that vein will make the remaining sites more attractive to prospects."
Couch said that more development in the park would require some additional infrastructure investment, but he is hopeful that those costs can be offset as well.
"I feel that we can be equally successful in getting additional grants to leverage that," he said.