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State, counties pay $61M for Bryan industrial site
Bulloch part of four-county Authority for ‘Mega Site’
mega
Gov. Brian Kemp is shown in June 2021 speaking to officials and businesspeople from a four-county area inside the undeveloped Bryan County Mega Site. Listening at right is Anna Chafin, CEO of the Development Authority of Bryan County. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

ELLABELL – Georgia paid $61 million for a sprawling site in Ellabell that it hopes to use to lure a large manufacturer.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that the purchase of the 2,284-acre Bryan County “Mega Site” from three separate sellers closed on July 27.

The state and the four-county Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority, which includes Bulloch County, had announced the purchase in May, but declined to say how much it had agreed to pay for the land in Bryan County. About 30 miles from Statesboro, the Mega Site is a flat, sandy tract currently studded with clumps of palmettos and stands of small pines trees.

The state paid in part with proceeds from the sale of another site in Chatham County to Amazon. Bryan and Chatham counties each put in $9 million and will be reimbursed later.

Chatham, Bryan, Bulloch and Effingham counties are members of the authority. The authority owns the land, but will decide on a buyer along with the state.

“We are working with the state to develop some thresholds for jobs, wages, investments, that type of thing, in order to provide some focus on the types of projects we’ll pursue,” Anna Chafin, CEO of the Bryan County Development Authority, said.

Officials said in May that they don’t intend to split up the site, unlike previous sites in the region that were sold piecemeal.

Savannah Economic Development Authority CEO Trip Tollison told The Associated Press in May that the site would only be shown to big manufacturers such as car or plane makers.

During a press conference at the Mega Site on June 4 announcing the purchase, Gov. Brian Kemp said he would like to see a manufacturer similar to SK Innovation that is building on an industrial site in Jackson County, north of Atlanta, locate in Bryan County. A South Korean company, SK is building two electric-vehicle battery factories projected to create 2,600 jobs by 2024. The company’s reported investment in Georgia totals $2.6 billion.

Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, said in June that the Mega Site could benefit Bulloch by landing a manufacturer large enough that it would require spinoff industries for supplies.

“With what we have we obviously couldn’t site a major industry of that magnitude. It’s really more of a regional concept,” said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch. “Now, I think the benefit could be if the state, JDA or whoever were able to land that big fish, that would put us and arguably surrounding counties in a very good  position to get suppliers, which would ultimately create some jobs and capital investment.”

Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said the site is worth $61 million-investment because its flat terrain is easily buildable and because of road and rail access to the ports of Savannah and Brunswick. The site adjoins Interstate 16 near Ellabell.

Tracks of the short-line Georgia Central Railway, leading to connections with CSX in Savannah and Norfolk-Southern in Macon, cross the southeastern end of the site. Another side fronts on I-16.

“From a location standpoint, you can’t get any better than where we are right now,” Chafin said in June. “We’re adjacent to I-16, less than 15 miles from I-95, and then less than 30 miles from the Port of Savannah and Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport.”

The site is also across I-16 from Bryan County’s Interstate Centre industrial park, which has industrial-grade utility lines that can be extended, she said.

The sellers are individuals or family-controlled corporations. Butler Tract LLC sold the largest portion, about 1,370 acres, for $25.2 million, according to the sales contract. Samwilka Inc., a family corporation, sold 841 acres for $31.4 million. William B. Mock of Ellabell sold 26 acres for $2.6 million.

 

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