In the 12 months that ended June 30, the Development Authority of Bulloch County worked with 31 “named” prospects, but so far none has resulted in a “win” in terms of a new industry, the authority’s CEO Benjy Thompson reported Tuesday at the DABC annual meeting.
The annual reporting and officer election meeting of the development authority board followed immediately after its August monthly meeting at 8 a.m. upstairs in the Statesboro branch of Queensborough National Bank, where the DABC office is now located. This meeting occurred in county and state fiscal year 2022, since the previous budget and reporting year ended June 30.
“In fiscal year 2021 we had 31 named projects, and we typically don’t name a project unless it’s something that has some legitimacy to it,” Thompson told the board members and county officials who attended.
Even then, the “name” is usually a code name or descriptor, not a company name, unless the deal actually comes to fruition or sometimes after it is abandoned.
Since there had been 23 named projects in fiscal year 2020, the number of apparently significant prospects increased by eight during the full pandemic year. But actual prospect visits were few, as Thompson had noted in explaining some areas of its budget where the authority spent less than originally projected.
Of the more recent year’s 31 projects, nine were “locally generated” potential projects of companies in direct contact with the DABC. The other 22 were “state” projects, meaning that they came to the DABC through the Georgia Department of Economic Development or a utility company such as Georgia Power.
“They come to us with a project name,” Thompson said. “They typically but don’t always come with a request for information from the community on things like the site, utilities, access to transportation, workforce, those kinds of numbers.”
Not all of the prospects provided job creation or capital investment numbers, but those that did represented 7,487 potential jobs and $1.7 billion in capital investment, proposed to go somewhere.
‘None … so far’
“Now we all know that no community is going to get every project that comes to your door. Some of these were more serious than others, and some of them we’re still working and they remain serious projects,” Thompson said. “But the bottom line, as we remind ourselves every year, is that of those 31 projects, none have come to fruition so far.”
For the major industrial prospects presented by statewide agencies, Bulloch County is competing with communities throughout the Southeast “and really all over the place,” Thompson said.
Of those 31 named projects, 10 were looking specifically at Southern Gateway Commerce Park, he added. This is the DABC property inside Bulloch County’s Interstate 16 Tax Allocation District on U.S. Highway 301.
“So we’re continuing to push that park and that property and beginning to get great feedback from the project managers that we bring to it,” Thompson said.
He and DABC Chairman Bruce Yawn mentioned an event last Thursday in which more than 20 project managers from the region visited both Southern Gateway and the original Gateway Industrial Park, Phase II, also referred to as the Cannady site. This older industrial park, where Great Dane and other existing industries are located, is also adjacent to U.S. 301 south of Statesboro and about six miles north of I-16.
The DABC continues to work on GRAD, or Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development, certification for the Southern Gateway Commerce Park. But so far this site has not become home to an industry, after millions of dollars of investment by the county government and the city of Statesboro to provide industrial-grade paved access roads and city water, sewer and natural gas service.
However, in October 2020 the DABC did sell 19.4 acres in the Southern Gateway park to a commercial buyer. Thompson mentioned this during the budget portion of his presentation, after he noted that the authority has a little more than $4 million in assets on hand.
“A significant amount of that is from the sale of that 19 acres at South Gateway for a commercial project,” he said. “That was right at $1.4 million, and we’ll hold that until the project begins construction.”
Asked after the meeting, he declined to identify the buyer or the nature of the commercial project, citing contractual conditions.
But the Bulloch County Board of Tax Assessors database shows that the 19.4-acre parcel now belongs to TA Operating LLC on behalf of TravelCenters of America LLC after a $1,358,000 purchase Oct. 30 from the DABC.
TravelCenters of America operates combinations of service stations and stores, often with restaurants and sometimes with truck maintenance facilities. Construction of such a center would provide the first significant growth in property values inside the I-16 Tax Allocation District as a source of revenue in return on the county’s investment.