Happy New Year!
2019 is here and what a year it is already shaping up to be. Last week I took a look back at a dizzying 2018 with mergers, expansions and exciting additions to our community that have set the stage for what we can hope will be a successful and prosperous new year.
Bill Herring, one of my most loyal readers, suggested that it may be time for me to trade in my “crystal ball” for a “Magic 8-Ball.” Every piece of advice Bill has given me has been golden so I think it is time to ditch (canal, creek) my crystal ball and give the 8-Ball a try.
So, here are my top five questions and my Magic 8-Ball’s response:
1) The biggest question of the decade, the one I am asked Ad nauseam: When we are getting a new Grocery Store? I can tell you that it almost certain there will be a new Grocery Store, hopefully in 2019, which is Aldi.
Beyond that, it looks very favorable that we will be getting another unnamed regional grocery store, which is proposed to be constructed off the bypass as part of the new soccer stadium and retail area. With the expansion of South Campus and tying in the entrance to Akins Boulevard along with this private development, there are more 600 acres in play for development. That entire area will see explosive growth, which has been kicked off with the construction of the new J.C. Lewis Ford just a block away.
“Magic 8-Ball will we get a grocery store that is Pretty Unique, Breathtakingly Lovely and Indeed Xtra-ordinary?”
2) The Blue Mile has generated a tremendous amount of activity. From the incredible transformation of the West District, to the ambitious and visionary Creek project, the momentum is growing.
However, it will take patience, persistence and visionary entrepreneurs who are willing to invest in these projects and our downtown to see these through. In addition, it will take bold leadership from the city leaders to creatively embrace and adjust alcohol laws and enhance incentives to create an entertainment district, which will help draw investment and visitors to this corridor.
“Magic 8-Ball will these projects move ahead in a way that attract students, locals and visitors alike back into our downtown area and restore our allure of days gone by?”
SO IT SHALL BE
3) Speaking of alcohol, I am being generous putting this third as it is the only question that truly rivals grocery stores and you have already guessed it. Why do we not have package stores in our city and county? Out of 159 counties in Georgia, there are only five that prohibit retail sales of distilled spirits. Bulloch and Effingham are the only two in South Georgia and Coweta, Lumpkin and Union in North Georgia.
Not even with the power of my crystal ball could I predict that Statesboro would decrease fines and penalties for consumption of marijuana before our citizens could legally buy a bottle of liquor. Could there be a cause and effect with this and the reason it has been so difficult to land a large grocery store chain here? Is this a factor in economic development?
Regardless, there is a huge leakage of tax revenue, in addition to the convenience factor.
“Magic 8-Ball will we city a referendum on the November ballot if not before to allow retail sales of distilled spirits in Statesboro?”
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT
4) With the millions of dollars our community has invested into the construction of a new industrial park at the intersection of I-16 and Highway 301 South, citizens are more than curious when this investment will pay off. Especially since they have seen the installation of water, sewer and natural gas from Statesboro, the construction of a water tower and most recently the road construction at the entrance of the park.
This has kept my inbox full. Many wonder if this will be the “field of dreams” that so many leaders hoped for when they committed this investment? There is no question, we have many advantages in play in Bulloch County.
A key factor is our proximity to the port of Savannah, which continues to grow capacity. As Savannah continues to expand west, our attractiveness will continue to increase exponentially.
“Magic 8-Ball will 2019 be the year we will land a key industry in our new industrial park?”
CANNOT FORETELL NOW
5) If you are subject to motion sickness then you are feeling bad these days riding the seismic waves of the stock markets. There are many factors of uncertainty with the economy locally, regionally, state wide and nationally that are giving local investors and business leaders reason to pause.
With nearly $300 million either in new construction broken ground or in the planning stages, enrollment at Georgia Southern stabilizing and local industries at capacity, we are in good position to weather a downturn. As we experienced in the last recession, it hit here slower, and with much less impact, than it did in much of the country.
Still, it is something I am asked about almost daily.
“Magic 8-Ball will 2019 see our economy slow locally?”
CONSULT ME LATER
These are just the top five. The questions come early and often and could fill every word in the paper today expounding upon them. Some honorable mentions:
• Will the next president of GSU be a southerner?
• Is Target coming to the old Kmart?
• Are they building a SAM’s by J.C. Lewis Ford?
One thing is for certain, there are not many boring days tracking the growth of our community. Here is to wishing 2019 brings you hope, great health, love, happiness and prosperity.
Email DeWayne at dgrice @statesboroherald.com