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Columbia County approves $700,000 in incentives for development

Posted: August 23, 2014 - 11:16pm

Columbia County officials have agreed to give $700,000 in economic incentives to a project that could bring a Wal-Mart “competitor” and as many as 500 jobs to the area outside of Grovetown near Interstate 20.

The Columbia County Commission approved the incentive money at its meeting Tuesday night.

According to county documents, $400,000 will be awarded to Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial as reimbursement for costs associated with infrastructure improvements to make way for a potential development on Lewiston Road at William Few Parkway. An additional $300,000 was approved for traffic improvements in the area.

County documents indicate the incentive money will come from a “variety of transportation discretionary funds” available for such projects.

Commission Chairman Ron Cross said the incentive money will be paid only after the development is completed – if it does come to fruition.

Cross described the anchor for the development as a retailer hoping to build a 140,000-square-foot building that would offer groceries, clothing and household items.

“It is supposed to be a large grocery chain,” he said. “This will be its largest store of this type east of the Mississippi.”

When fully developed, the project could bring as many as 500 jobs to the area, Cross said.

Commissioner Ron Thigpen said the potential tax revenue and job growth that the project would provide will more than pay for the economic incentives provided by the county.

To make way for the development, officials plan to move the intersection of William Few Parkway farther north along Lewiston Road and away from I-20.

Cross acknowleged the new development would create more traffic pressure in the area, but pointed out that there are plans to widen Lewiston Road from I-20 to Columbia Road. That, however, is dependant second tier transportation sales tax funding, so isn’t likely to happen until four or five years from now, he said.

Vic Mills, the CEO of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial, said the company already controls several parcels of land in the area and has acquired options for other properties that will be needed for the potential development.

“We still have a lot of work to do on this,” Mills said. “But we do have great interest in this location from several prospective tenants.”

Mills said it was too early to name those potential tenants, but he said he was optimistic that if things continued to progress, more details will be available soon.

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