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Inside Bulloch Business with DeWayne Grice - AgSouth plan reshapes future of downtown
AG South Site Perspective Web
A rendering showing an overhead view of the entire campus of the AgSouth corporate office village is shown above. - photo by Illustration Courtesy DPR Architecture

             When Allen Muldrew began his position as the director of the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority he became the chief salesman for downtown Statesboro.
        Even he could not have imagined then how remarkable the future of our downtown was going to be.
        "The Averitt Center and Emma Kelly Theater projects had created a tremendous amount of momentum for downtown," Muldrew said. "I was charged with building on this momentum in working to create an environment that was friendly and inviting to businesses, customers and residents alike. We knew that to be successful we needed a downtown that attracted people who wanted to live, work and play downtown. Some days we travel at a snail's pace it seems, but each step we take, each seed we plant is an investment in what is to come."
        Last week, the forecast for downtown, the Blue Mile and America's Best Communities competition became much brighter when AgSouth Farm Credit Chairman of the Board William Robinson and CEO Pat Calhoun announced a multi-million dollar expansion of the Statesboro footprint in the heart of our downtown.
        Ag South recently purchased the Darley building on Vine Street from Bryan Darley. The building sits directly behind the current AgSouth corporate office at the corner of Vine and South Main. In addition, they purchased two warehouses on Vine Street owned by Bobby Smith.
        All three of these structures will be removed to make way for the new Ag South campus. The campus will include the construction of an additional 7,780 square foot building. It will be the third building downtown owned by Ag South. The new building will be constructed at the back of the property and includes approximately 30 offices and a meeting room available for agricultural and civic club use.
        The three facilities will be joined together by a green space area between the buildings creating a campus environment. When completed, the complex will encompass nearly three acres downtown. AgSouth is working with John Rule of DPR Architecture and John Lavender of Lavender & Associates, Inc., both of Statesboro, for the planning and construction.
        The project is expected to be completed in late fall 2017.

Moving to Statesboro
        Ag South is the largest Agricultural cooperative in Georgia with assets exceeding $1.7 billion. They employ 240 spread over 24 branches serving nearly 10,000 cooperative members. Their branches serve 59 counties in Georgia and 34 counties in South Carolina and include administrative offices in Spartanburg, S.C., and Orangeburg, S.C. The consolidation and expansion will involve the relocation of staff currently in these two administrative offices and the hiring of additional staff to support the accounting and administrative departments.
        In addition to branch employees, who work directly with AgSouth's customers, once complete, the Statesboro complex will house all of the company's executive staff as well as the accounting, legal, technology, secondary mortgage market and human resources departments.
        "We are excited about the opportunity to expand our campus in the downtown area," CEO Pat Calhoun said. "The new facility will complement our existing downtown facilities and help us continue our tradition of investing in Statesboro."
        This is the third time AgSouth has invested heavily to bring new life to abandoned and dilapidated buildings in the core of our downtown.
        Their first project included the early 90s acquisition and renovation of the abandoned Piggly Wiggly grocery store, which now serves as their Statesboro branch office on South Main. In 2003, AgSouth acquired and restored to its original grandeur the abandoned Statesboro City Hall building at 26 South Main. The building will continue to house the executive leadership.

Significant investment
        Their commitment and multi-million dollar prior investments into our downtown have become guidepost for downtown development.
        With such a significant investment in downtown Statesboro, the expansion decision was thoroughly vetted by the AgSouth Board and leadership. They commissioned a year-long study and considered several locations in South Carolina and Georgia.
        If they had decided to relocate outside of Statesboro it would have been a huge blow to our revitalization efforts. Once they decided Statesboro was the best location, for a variety of reasons, they had to determine a location for the expansion.
        The current plan was made possible by the willingness of two long time Statesboro families to sell their properties to clear the way for this incredible project in the heart of our downtown. In addition, the mayor and city council's unwavering commitment to this project, along with the support of Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, made AgSouth's decision to stay possible.
        "The economic impact for our area will be tremendous on many fronts and I am very hopeful it will be the catalyst for major redevelopment within the heart of our city," Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore said. "I have no doubt, this is a game changer for our city and I could not be more thrilled."
        According to CFO Alisa D. Gunter, the consolidation of AgSouth's administrative offices will add approximately 20 additional jobs to the Statesboro location. Some of those jobs will be filled by current employees relocating from the offices in South Carolina.
        "We're making a huge investment in the Statesboro community, not only by putting money into infrastructure but by adding additional jobs," Gunter said. "In the past 13 years, AgSouth has increased our gross loan portfolio by more than 51 percent, and we are proud to be one of the most successful agricultural cooperatives in the Southeast. This new additional investment of over $3 million will increase the number of local AgSouth employees to 60 with an annual payroll in excess of $6 million."

Message to the world
        "The last project to compare to this expansion in the heart of downtown was the renovation of the Averitt Center and the Emma Kelly Theater," Muldrew said. "No question that project became the catalyst to the beautiful, vibrant downtown we now all enjoy. This investment and commitment to our downtown by Ag South will no doubt fuel excitement, energy and momentum to the current Blue Mile restoration project and our efforts to bring home the top prize in the America's Best Communities competition.
        "More importantly, it sends a strong message to investors, developers and businesses throughout the South that Statesboro, Georgia is the best place in the world to relocate, or expand your business. We must work fervently to build upon this success and use it as an example of the opportunities available in downtown Statesboro."

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

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