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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - Here are my 2015 'crystal ball' predictions
Grice-H-DeWayne Web
DeWayne Grice

Business Ticker

• Neal Ardman and Radio Statesboro announce a format change for two of his local radio stations: WZBX 106.5 FM and WPTB 850 AM will become ESPN Radio on January 15, 2015.

 

        A quick poll of local retailers show what seems to be one of the best Christmas selling seasons, even rivaling the pre-recession period.
        Over and over, the primary reason given for strong sales was the direct impact falling gas prices have had on our local economy. We are seeing gas prices plunge to historic lows. Economists predict that if the trend continues we could see another ten cent drop in the near future. That would bring prices into the $1.90 range.
        According to Stephen Stanley, the chief economist at Amherst Pierpont, every penny drop in gas prices adds $1 billion into American's pockets. This unexpected stimulus has had a powerful impact on the confidence of shoppers and retailers. This, coupled with other factors like record new home starts this past year in Bulloch County and local industrial and retail growth are setting the stage for an incredible 2015.
        With this in mind, I wanted to take a moment to not look back, but instead look forward at what exciting changes may come to pass in 2015. Some of these predictions are based on complete fact, a few are just gut instinct and the rest, well, may be wishful thinking. I will let you decide what column to place each item. Here we go:

Grocery stores
        Walmart will complete what has become referred to locally as "the Sherman strategy" when they announce the construction of a third Walmart in our community. The third will actually be the second neighborhood Market and third Murphy fuel center. They are being placed strategically to make it impossible for nearly 80 percent of the region's population not to pass a Walmart before they arrive at any of the proposed locations for a Publix or Kroger so many citizens have hoped for. Thus "circling and burning" the competition.
        Piggly Wiggly will make a splash returning to the market as our next "new" grocery store.


Local government
        At least two long serving elected officials will shock the town when they announce they will not seek re-election next year.
        The storied FBI investigation will take on a life of its own and end up creating real headaches for the instigators of the investigation. The initial targets of the probe will be exonerated.
        Billy Hickman will announce a large private gift from an anonymous donor, who is a former resident of the city, to launch construction of the long awaited horse arena. The project will create a unique facility that will become a destination for horse lovers from all over the southeast.

Health care
        Regional hospital CEO's will build an unlikely coalition of competitive hospitals in leading the charge for Medicaid expansion in Georgia, including East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
        The state's most powerful rural legislator, Sen. Jack Hill, who chairs the budget writing Senate Appropriations committee and ranking member of the state's second most powerful committee - Rules - will join their coalition and work to save five rural hospitals in his district alone from financial doom. They will do this by convincing Georgia's legislators to embrace the Iowa expansion initiative.
        The Iowa model includes a unique public/private partnership to make health care available to hundreds of thousands of Georgians.
        In doing so, nearly 30,000 citizens in the region will benefit from this historic partnership in obtaining access to affordable health care. Because of this every hospital in his district will begin to thrive again saving hundreds of jobs.
East Georgia will continue to aggressively recruit physicians into our community. They will announce an expansion of the Emergency Department and their operating rooms.

Industry
        A Fortune 100 company will announce that Statesboro is on the short list of finalists for a major east coast expansion to the new industrial park on Highway 301. The announcement will become the catalyst for economic expansion in the park much like the Walmart Distribution Center did for the existing industrial park. Leading the effort in re-cruiting this industry will be an unlikely business leader who has a personal relationship with the prospect's CEO.
        Existing industry will ramp up to maximum capacity adding well over 300 new jobs.

Downtown
        Another Statesboro landmark restaurant will retain new ownership and will be replaced by a popular national chain.
        The "Blue Mile" committee will announce a major grant to fund a unique "new technology" transportation system that will connect GSU with Downtown. As part of the grant, city leaders will create an entertainment district focusing on the city campus as the centerpiece. Two national chains and a partnership of local developers will lead the redevelopment.

Averitt Center
        The Averitt Center for the Arts will announce a major expansion and acquisition of additional buildings downtown. The center will double its current square footage and triple the number of citizens involved in art programs downtown. This effort will be buoyed by a unique multi-county partnership to provide, lead and mange arts programs throughout the region. It will solidify the legacy of its namesake, the late Mayor Hal Averitt, and serve as a catalyst for increased tourism and business expansion in the downtown area.

Farmers Market
        The Farmers Market will take a major step forward with the announcement of the acquisition and renovation of a covered facility that will allow the market to grow and remain a centerpiece of activity for downtown.

New parks
        Three new parks will be created in downtown. One will be a dog park located behind the Statesboro Convention and Visitors bureau. The second will be a major, enhanced park funded by and named for the donor, a philanthropist who has been a major voice in our community's success.
        The third is a skate park which will be added to our current park system. It will be constructed in a way that will allow us to host large skate competitions serving as yet another attraction for our residents and visitors alike.
        Lastly, one of the most beautiful streets in our city, Savannah Avenue, will see a renewal and restoration. A strong neighborhood coalition will be the model for other historic neighborhoods surrounding the core of downtown.
Here is to wishing that most of these dreams will come true and 2015 will be one for the record books.

         Please email DeWayne at dgrice@statesboroherald.com or give him a call at (912) 489-9499.

Business Ticker

• Neal Ardman and Radio Statesboro announce a format change for two of his local radio stations: WZBX 106.5 FM and WPTB 850 AM will become ESPN Radio on January 15, 2015.

 

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