A couple of plants in McDuffie County have announced expansion plans, including one that used to be in Columbia County.
Blue Dot has announced it will add a quick color coating line to its Thomson facility.
The plant expansion will provide 30 new jobs and represents a $1.5 million investment in McDuffie County, a Tier I community, said Georgia Department of Industry Trade and Tourism Regional Project Manager Wendy Bibb.
McDuffie County manufacturer Thomson Plastics also announced it will construct a 50,000 square foot building that will serve as a warehouse and for various assembly operations.
The project will create 30 to 40 new jobs during the next 18 months, company president Jerry Harrison said.
The company is expanding to support new business from Briggs and Stratton Corp., in Statesboro.
With an unemployment rate hovering around 8 percent, the new jobs will be welcomed, McDuffie County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton IV said.
"With the downturn in the economy, people have had layoffs," he said. "Anytime we can decrease the unemployment rate, it's always a good thing for us. And, Blue Dot pays fairly decent wages, and any time we can raise the wage base, that's good, too. We're pulling for them to continue to grow and expand. We'll do all we can for them."
Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Winston Oxford said the Thomson Plastics expansion is a success story for the county. The development authority constructed the original building which was leased to Thomson Plastics and was later purchased by the company.
"It means about 25 or 30 more jobs in the next year or so, and about a $3 million investment in the community," he said. "We expect them to be up to 200 employees in the next two to three years."
Blue Dot was once a Columbia County manufacturer. Since 1997, Blue Dot had operated a 19,000-square-foot facility on Park West Drive in Grovetown. But in April 1999 when its orders from Club Car increased and they needed to expand, they went looking for property. Blue Dot packed up and moved to McDuffie County after its offer to buy land in Evans was snubbed.
In February 1999, the company made a bid on property in Columbia County Industrial Park near Evans Towne Centre and asked the county to provide utility lines and build an access road to the site. However, some on the Columbia County Development Authority thought the offer of $20,500 an acre for 9.79 acres was too low. Land in that area sells for around $40,000 an acre.
"Ultimately we were fortunate enough to convince them to come here," Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Winston Oxford said. "For the last year and half or so they've been at around 60 to 70 employees. Today they are working two shifts with around 110 employees."
Blue Dot - a subsidiary of U.S. Supply Co. in Raleigh, N.C. - built a 65,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in McDuffie County's Mount Pleasant Industrial Park on Mount Pleasant Road in the southwest side of the county.
The plant, which manufactures golf car accessories and components, doubled its work-force from 25 to around 50 when it moved to McDuffie County. Today it also coats parts for about five John Deere Tier I suppliers.
"We've had an increase in people, and today we're running 105 people at peek. We expect to cycle down to around 75," said Charlie Weser, Blue Dot's vice president of production and operations. "We're also looking to build another 35,000 square feet of additional space next year so we can get out of this leasing situation. We're continuing to grow."
McDuffie County Development Authority sold the land in their industrial park for $3,000 an acre to Two State Construction Co., which built the plant and leased it back to Blue Dot, said Winston Oxford, the director of Thomson-McDuffie County Chamber of Commerce.
The county used grant money to build roads and bring utility lines into the park, which was then graded but undeveloped. Blue Dot was the park's first tenant.
Now the company has added 10,000 additional square footage to its assembly operations by leasing another building nearby, Oxford said.
Plant officials said it was economically advantageous to move to McDuffie County because of the land, labor and tax incentives.
That's because it's a Tier 1 county, one of 71 on a list drafted by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs ranking counties from the poorest to the most affluent. Tier 1 counties are the poorest; Tier 4 are the wealthiest.
In 2000, lawmakers revised the Business Expansion and Support Act jobs tax credit program, increasing the number of economically disadvantaged counties eligible for job tax credits and increasing the amount of credit for each job created.
Beginning in 2001, a company moving to a Tier 1 county would be eligible for a credit of $3,500 per employee against its state corporate income tax for five years. By comparison, a company moving into Columbia County - a Tier 4 county - would get a $750 tax credit.
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