SYLVANIA — The flag of India flew beside those of Georgia and the United States at the Screven County Industrial Park as Gov. Nathan Deal joined in breaking ground Monday for ShriVallabh Pittie Group's $70 million yarn spinning plant, expected to create 250 jobs.
Deal hailed it as further evidence that Georgia has become very attractive to industry under his watch. SV Pittie Group's chairman, Vinod Pittie, suggested that his company's toehold in North America will start a resurgence of the textile industry in Georgia. Meanwhile, Sylvania and Screven County officials welcomed those jobs and the possibility of more.
"Last fall, by about several weeks before Site Selection magazine named Georgia the No. 1 place in the nation to do business, SV Pittie had made the announcement that they were planning to come here to Georgia and into the Sylvania area," Deal said. "I think that probably that announcement was at least one of the ingredients that caused Site Selection magazine to make that designation."
In this election year in which he faces a Democratic challenger, Deal, a Republican, frequently has repeated the news of Site Selection's choice. This prompted critics to note that the magazine has a limited circulation, mainly among corporate real estate executives, site selection managers and development agencies.
But in June, as Deal was able to note Monday, the cable channel CNBC also named Georgia its 2014 "Top State for Doing Business." This was based on a point system in categories such as costs of doing business, infrastructure quality, education and technology.
"That's good for Georgia," Deal said. "It allows us to recruit more jobs for our citizens, and, by the way, since I became governor, about 3 1/2 years ago now, according to Labor Department statistics, we have had more than 250,000 new private-sector jobs created in Georgia, one of the fastest-growing job-producing states in the entire country."
Deal credited the Department of Economic Development, whose commissioner, Chris Carr, also took part in the ceremony, for its work with local development agencies to land new industries.
Through a program called Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development, or GRAD, the Screven County Development Authority had a 95-acre tract in its industrial park designated "pad-ready" several years ago. Utility lines were put in place and hurdles such as wetlands delineation cleared.
From this tract, the Development Authority is providing about 70 acres to SV Pittie Group, which will eventually own the land through a bonds-for-title transaction.
Another state program slated to assist the company is Quick Start, which provides free, customized employee training to new and expanding industries.
The plant should be ready to run, creating those 250 jobs, in January 2016, Pittie said. Meanwhile, its construction should require about 100 workers employed through contractors, he said.
Founded in India in 1898, ShriVallabh Pittie Group currently operates 12 plants in India. From there, it exports yarn — threads used in making fabrics — to Central and South America.
But this will be the company's first factory anywhere outside India. As Pittie explained when he came to Sylvania in October to sign the site agreement with county officials, his company has calculated that it can pay higher U.S. wages and still have a net advantage in reduced shipping costs to Latin America. A lower power tariff here, higher quality infrastructure than in India and the site's location on Georgia Highway 21, which leads directly to the port of Savannah, were other attractions he mentioned.
Another factor, acknowledged by local officials, is that Screven County has a history in textiles and retains residents with relevant experience. Sylvania Yarn Systems Inc., which had operated a factory there for 40 years, closed at the end of 2009, leaving 150 people out of work.
"I assure you that this groundbreaking ceremony is not a ceremony for one particular manufacturing facility," Pittie told those attending. "I can assure you that after this facility's work comes up, the whole textile world is looking at us, and once this unit is successful, there would be many entrepreneurs who are looking forward to join us and put their facilities in Georgia."
Deal, Pittie and local officials also linked the prominence of cotton farming in the area to the fact that the mill will use cotton in spinning yarn.
Will Boyd, the cotton farmer who chairs the Screven County Board of Commissioners, wore a tie patterned with tiny cotton bolls as he welcomed the SV Pittie Group and thanked state officials.
"I'm excited twofold, because it's good for the county, but it's also good for my industry," Boyd said in an interview. "I feel like this is the first step in maybe us bringing the textile industry back to the United States."
‘Whatever we wanted'
Beyond the site's built-in attractions, the state and local governments provided incentives to seal the deal, Pittie acknowledged.
"Whatever we wanted, as a company, to have our facility here, the governor, the state authorities, the local authorities, everything, they gave us whatever we wanted," he told the crowd. "They have been cooperating with us on a day-to-day basis."
A bonds-for-title arrangement usually exempts an industry temporarily from property taxes by providing land through a lease while it remains, for a certain number of years, property of a tax-exempt development authority. Payments in lieu of taxes can be phased in, however. In an interview, Pittie said his company will receive tax abatement for about 10 years as well as help with infrastructure.
While acknowledging a bonds-for-title deal is in place, Screven officials were not discussing details Monday.
"We provided the typical concessions that are necessary to attract a project of this type, and the state was a good partner in it," said Screven County Development Authority Executive Director Dorie Bacon. "And Mr. Pittie owns 12 plants in India, he knows his business, so we're confident that he'll be able to be successful here. We have a strong tradition of a textile workforce here, and we're excited to see them brought back to work."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.