A new Lowe's in Evans will not only bring more home improvement options to Columbia County. It also will offer plenty of jobs.
Just days before a Thursday Georgia Department of Labor release reported rising unemployment in the Augusta area, Columbia County officials learned the new Lowe's Home Improvement store at the corner of Industrial Park Drive and Washington Road will generate 175 new jobs.
On Monday, Lowe's stated in a news release the $18.5 million, 116,000 square foot store will create 175 full- and part-time positions and is scheduled to open by the end of this year.
Zack Daffin, the executive director of the Development Authority of Columbia County, said on Friday that the new Lowe's store is a positive economic development for the county because unlike many retail businesses, a Lowe's brings good jobs with benefits.
"On the retail side, some of the concerns are that you have a sort of pass-through where the employees may not be there long or they may not have good benefits, but this is certainly not the case with Lowe's," Daffin said.
"These are permanent jobs, and people have made careers, good careers from their employment with Lowe's."
Concerning overall job growth throughout the Augusta area, a Thursday Labor Department release stated that the unemployment rate in the Augusta area increased to 5.6 percent in May from 5.2 percent in April. That compares to a statewide unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in May, which increased from 4.3 percent in April.
Though specific figures for Columbia County were not reported, the metropolitan Augusta area's unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent in May from 5.2 percent in April, according to the Labor Department.
Jennifer S. Smith, a Lowe's spokeswoman, stated in an e-mail that she could not comment specifically about the area economic impact of a Lowe's. She also did not provide the salary or hourly wage range of various positions.
"Approximately three-quarters of our jobs are full-time positions," Smith said. "Certainly, the community benefits from the increased tax revenues as well as the salaries, as the vast majority of employees are from the local market, that are going back into the local economy," she said.
More home improvement-related jobs could be in the works across Washington Road from the Lowe's site if talks between developers and The Home Depot turn into a deal for a store at the old Evans Middle School site.
Vic Mills, of Blanchard and Calhoun Commercial, the site's developer, confirmed this month that his company and The Home Depot have discussed the property.
Mills said other parties have expressed interested and talks continue.
Construction could start by early 2007 once the old school is demolished later this summer or fall, Mills said, adding he hopes to have tenants finalized in the next few months.
Daffin said Friday he is aware of the negotiations with Home Depot but could not comment.
E-mail messages left with The Home Depot's corporate press relations department were not immediately returned.
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