With the election of a new president and the overwhelming focus President Trump has placed on winning, I just knew that 2017 would be the year of big wins. Like the president has learned, winning is not always as easy as it seems. Progress is great, but it is not always a win.
So, I will have to adjust my 2018 predictions with this in mind.
Let’s first see how I did in 2017:
My 2017 Crystal Ball Predictions
Winning was the name of the game in 2017. We were going to win so much, we were going to get tired of winning.
Our first WIN would come in the form of a new grocery store. A much sought after, big name grocery chain will announce that they are re-entering the Statesboro marKet with the constRuction Of a new store. It would not be as biG as we had hopEd, but neveR the less the scaled down version would be a triumphant win for Statesboro.
Kroger did place a 17-acre site under contract between Petco and Vaden Nissan on the Brannen Connector, according to renderings from the project and the application to the Corps of Engineers. The proposed project would have consisted of the construction of a new 115,141-square-foot Kroger Marketplace, with associated parking, one new Kroger Fuel Center with nine gasoline dispensers, and two outparcels for future development by other entities. It would have permanently impacted 5.26 acres of wetlands with fill material for the development of the Kroger Marketplace facility. Temporary wetland impacts for the construction of the retaining wall and associated footers would total 0.18 acres according to the application.
During the public comment period, a local environmental organization filed a complaint against Kroger to stop the project. Kroger made the decision to pull the project before the Corps of Engineers made a decision on the application.
We would WIN the America’s Best Cities Competition and bring home the $3 million prize. This win would accelerate the Blue Mile Project and give our city a huge bounce in the national media.
In April, Statesboro won third place in the ABC competition and brought home a $1 million prize. Leaders of the Blue Mile effort helped leverage over $1 million more of matching funds from other entities bringing the total to well over $2 million. In addition, the county approved their participation in the Blue Mile TAD and the BOE is expected to follow suit. Local developers and investors continue to make improvements to the Blue Mile district.
Local developer Josh Whitfield recently announced a multi-million dollar redevelopment of the former West Building Supply on South College Street near the post office. The enthusiasm and energy for this project will see millions of new investment into downtown over the next few years.
A consortium of local doctors, business leaders and philanthropist would put together an investment group and make a pass at purchasing back EGRMC from its parent company with a goal of making it the winningest, most advanced, affordable and most successful community-owned health center in America.
EGRMC is owned by Community Health Systems Inc. a Fortune 500 company based in Franklin, Tennessee. It is the largest provider of general hospital healthcare services in the United States in terms of number of acute care facilities. The parent company has been aggressively selling off hospital assets to help reduce the company’s nearly $14 billion of debt. EGRMC is a shining star in CHS’s portfolio of hospitals.
With the uncertainty of the parent company and the focus on selling off properties a local group of investors looked into the acquisition of EGRMC. Their goal was to make the hospital community-owned again. Through research they learned that to make the deal work, they needed to acquire multiple facilities. This makes the deal trickier, even if CHS agreed to sell EGRMC which is doubtful.
However, Tianqiao Chen, an activist Chinese investor, does see some value in CHS and is actively buying their stock, which was last trading at around $4 per share. Chen-controlled companies bought another $1.6 million worth of Community Health Systems stock on Dec. 26 bringing his effective ownership to 25.9 million shares, or 23 percent of all outstanding stock. It is unclear what the Chinese investment manager's intentions are with his holdings, which are approaching one-quarter of the company. He has indicated in the past that he was not going to take an activist role with his various investment vehicles, which operate under the Shanda moniker.
The Statesboro mayoral election would see a crowded field of contestants. The victor would present a winning strategy to “Make Statesboro Great Again.” The winner’s platform would include a detailed plan to combat crime, a plan to finally bring liquor to Statesboro and streamline regulations to make us the most business friendly community in America.
In a political upset, Jonathan McCollar was elected as Statesboro’s first African-American mayor by a 229-vote margin in a three-person race. The centerpiece of McCollars platform was inclusiveness and diversity.
Newly Elected Commission Chairman Roy Thompson would pull together a special task force that would do whatever it takes to WIN in economic development. His soft spoken, boots-on-the-ground leadership style will touch every segment of our community. No one would be left behind with his bold new economic plan.
Chairman Thompson has led by example in his first year as chairman. No family has given more to our community than the Thompson family. Through their Christmas lights display he has leveraged partnerships with key civic organizations, which help provide food and necessities to help meet the needs of families throughout 2018. He is leading an effort to initiate our first Transportation SPLOST and has encouraged Georgia DOT to step up the timeline to four-lane Highway 67 to I-16. Marketing for the Gateway Industrial Park continues aggressively.
Winning would become such a way of life that even local sports teams would catch on. Look for a phenomenal year for SHS, GSU and TormentaFC.
2017 was a rebuilding year for local sports teams. SHS and GSU saw coaching changes. However, TormentaFC, Bulloch Academy and SEB all had strong seasons)
2018 Crystal Ball Predictions
With new leadership at City Hall, we will see a renewed focus on economic growth and investment in our city. I expect another rewrite of the alcohol laws and we will see serious efforts to explore finally bringing package sales of liquor into the city. The Blue Mile corridor will continue to become a vibrant economic and entertainment hub connecting GSU, OTC and EGSC with downtown. We will begin to see major retail and restaurant franchises begin to focus on moving back into the downtown corridor, moving away from the heavily congested mall area.
It will not be easy for the new mayor. He will have to work hard to build the trust and confidence of city council and our community. Mayor McCollar will make his mark by making our city operations more inclusive and representative of the community. He will creatively bring talented voices to the table who will share innovative and creative ways to help move the city forward. Look for new ideas to take hold including unique public-private business partnerships and partnerships with non-profits to enhance the efforts of government.
The “new” GSU will begin to take shape after a year of consolidation efforts between Armstrong and GSU. The South Campus investment will prove to be a wise move for GSU leadership. This gives the university the much-needed space to continue to grow and expand, which will ensure the center of GSU will remain in Statesboro.
The investiture ceremony for Dr. Jaimie Hebert in the spring will be a defining moment for GSU, our community and our region. This will continue to be a delicate dance but optimism will prevail.
The expansion of the Savannah Port along with the four-lane expansion of Highway 67 to I-16 and the passage of the TSPLOST will again put the spotlight on the jewel Bulloch County is for economic developers. This could be the year that we see the communities’ investments pay off for the new Gateway Industrial Park. Community leaders will have to make some bold and potentially unpopular decisions to position us for future opportunities. In the end, these will prove to be extremely fruitful.
We will see strong retail growth through local entrepreneurs and outside investors. Popular national chains, including highly notable restaurants and retailers, will find their way to Statesboro. This includes a well-known grocery store. My best guess at this moment in time is that Publix will beat Kroger to the market. I also predict they will locate outside of the congestion of the Mall. Their investment will see a new area of retail and entertainment growth explode in our community. Much like what happened when EGRMC came to the Market District.
A community-wide public transportation plan will begin to take shape. This could possibly be the first example of a true public-private initiative in order to achieve this. Expect a transportation system that will connect the three university/colleges and the industrial parks with downtown, the mall and market district.
2018 will be a year where we will see a restlessness and sense of urgency in our community. Citizens will begin to lead critical efforts that will set the stage for incredible partnerships. Part of this will arise from impatience from the political process but much of this will be a renewed spirt of community engagement.
Politics locally and statewide will again be interesting this year as we will elect a new governor and leadership for Georgia. There will be upsets, surprise retirements and resignations that will open opportunities for talented citizens to step up at every level. When the dust settles, the person chosen to lead our state will have major implications for our community, especially the future of OTC, EGSC and GSU.
We will see another strong year for the hospitality industry this year. The opening of the new “Billy Hickman Mixed Use Agriculture Arena” in the spring along with the opening of Home 2 Suites plus the announcement of another new hotel will all help leverage our community in ways that were not possible before. Through creative leadership and marketing, we will see interesting events and opportunities for visitors and the community alike.
The financial institutions will have another banner year. We will see the completion of the Ag South Campus downtown and the groundbreaking for a major branch in the Market District for a well-established bank in Statesboro. We will also see several new entries into the market, including a minority-owned bank.
Agricultural growth will continue to be strong. I predict we will see more consolidation of farming and agriculture operations so that we can remain competitive and efficient as leaders in this important economic segment.
2018 will prove to be another exciting year of growth for our community, region and state. It is a great time to invest in our community. Here is to a wonderful 2018 for each of you.
Please email DeWayne at firstname.lastname@example.org.