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Getting busy at Gateway
Interest is picking up in Bulloch industrial park sites
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This aerial photo shows the recent clearing going on at the Gateway Industrial Park. - photo by Photo courtesy Frank Fortune/Statesboro Bulloch County Chamber of Commerce
      Five years ago, the Development Authority of Bulloch County purchased 350 acres of land to enlarge the Gateway Regional Industrial Park just south of Statesboro. Gateway II, as it has been dubbed, is in the process of being prepped for development as interest from manufacturing prospects intensifies.
       "It is hard for an industrial manufacturing prospect to envision their facility when they are looking at a field of trees," said Peggy Chapman, executive director of the Development Authority. "We felt like the site would be much more inviting and make good business sense to those interested. A prospect could begin building right away, and have a very good feel for what their facility would look like upon completion."
       In tough economic times, many citizens may be wondering if now is such a good time to be using resources when no firm prospect has been landed.
       "As Warren Buffet has said, when times are difficult, the best investment is in yourself or your community," said Jim Ewing, director of business recruitment and retention for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. "Marketing of a site is enhanced exponentially by its state of preparedness. This is an excellent site."
       Ewing said there are many, many industrial sites in smaller towns around Georgia which are simply fields where no prep work has been done whatsoever.
       "We have plenty of farms in Georgia," he said. "There are many of those type properties, and we certainly show those to interested prospects. But, hands down, a site which as been prepped and is ready to go is always far more desirable. These are very competitive times, and what is being done in the expansion of your Gateway Industrial Park is an excellent and relatively inexpensive investment by your community."
       Right now 100 acres of the 350 acre site has been cleared and is being graded. It has been quite a job up until this point.
       "We work on it as much as we can in between doing other work that needs to be done in the county," said Eddie Smith, director of transportation for Bulloch County. "We are using county machinery and the resources that we have. We are moving a tremendous amount of dirt around the property, and are about 40 percent done. I imagine it will take until next May or June to finish."
       Chapman said the site prep work is the last thing that will need to be completed for the site to be given the Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development designation.
       "To my knowledge, there are only five sites in the state that have been given that designation," she said. "Many industrial site selection projects are conducted on a rapid schedule. Prospective new industries often decline to consider sites that are not known to be well prepared for development."
       In response to this need, the Georgia Allies have launched the GRAD sites pilot program to develop a pool of available industrial sites in the state. Formed in 1997 as a partnership between state government and private corporations, Georgia Allies builds on the individual initiatives of its members to create larger, more targeted programs that aggressively promote the state's business development.
       "We have met the extensive criteria to be a GRAD site and submitted our paperwork," said David Holland, the recently installed chairman of the board of the Development Authority. "We need to keep doing the right things to market this industrial park. It is so important to bring good paying jobs to our citizens. To do that, we need to attract good corporate citizens."
Chapman said is more important than ever to differentiate Gateway from other contenders.
       "When we opened the first phase of Gateway in the mid nineties, there were no other competing industrial parks between Savannah and Macon," she said. "Now, just about every county has some sort of an industrial park. You have to be ready to go when a prospect comes knocking."
       Chapman said water, sewer and gas have been run to Gateway II with funds from SPLOST, and there are plans to four-lane Riggs Road. She said interest in the site remains high.
       "It is been a weird time in development, from 9/11 to the most recent stock market crash," she said. "We have had very good prospects get very close to building in Gateway II, but the economy has stalemated their plans. I really feel like we are doing the things that we need to do, and can do, to bring more good industry to Bulloch County. It is going to happen."
       Of the 350 acres purchased for Gateway II, five acres were donated to the Georgia State Patrol for construction of their facility on Highway 301 South. Five acres have been donated to the Georgia Department of Transportation for the construction of a new facility. Ten acres have been donated to East Georgia College for the construction of a Statesboro campus. There are 65 acres remaining to be developed in the initial phase of the park.
       The entrance to the Gateway Regional Industrial Park is at the intersection of Highway 301 South and Jimps Road.