With Keurig Beverage Co. announcing it will build a manufacturing plant in Lithia Springs and Gordon Foods’ new home under construction in eastern Douglasville, District 2 County Commissioner Kelly Robinson said the basis of such economic development success is offering companies “a business-friendly atmosphere.”
“Douglas County has a strategic plan as to how we can help those big business operations thrive and prosper,” Robinson said.
There are several factors involved in that effort, he said, including the county developing a good economic groundwork designed to attract new employers.
Keurig is projected to employ 550 in its 585,000-square-foot plant and Gordon will employ 200 in a new 445,000-square-foot building.
In addition, when talking to companies about locating in Douglas, county development authority director Chris Pumphrey and his staff emphasize what Robinson called the county’s “natural assets” for growth, such as its easily accessible highway system and the county having its own water supply from the Dog River Reservoir, and independent of the Chattahoochee River.
“We are changing the economic atmosphere of Douglas to one that is more conducive to big firms,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the county is rapidly changing its business image.
“In the past, Douglas was viewed as mainly a storefront community with small businesses, and there is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
However, since being elected to the commission in 2008, Robinson said he has maintained that economic recovery from a recession depends on attracting big corporations “and taking advantages of jobs they bring to support the local economy.”
Pumphrey said that during the recent recession, big corporations typically changed their focus from expansion to increasing the efficiency of their infrastructures. As the national economy started moving again, company expansion plans focused first on occupying existing facilities that largely had been left vacant during the recession, he said.
He used the company Industrial Developments International as an example.
“After significant absorption, IDI built the first industrial specification building in the Atlanta market since pre-recession and built it here in Lithia Springs,” he said.
There were many skeptics of the company’s investment in Douglas, Pumphrey said.
“Within 10 months of completing its building, 476,000 square feet of IDI’s 653,000-square-foot structure had been leased,” he said.
As to what businesses look for when expanding or relocating, Pumphrey said they first seek real estate that fits their needs and then focus on ease of access to their primary market.
“Once these objectives are met, they look at other attributes within that community that are relevant to their company,” he said.
These include the area’s school system for the children of its employees, the friendliness of the business community and assurances that the local jurisdiction is capable of working with their company, Pumphrey said.
“We developed an economic package for Douglas that attracted a multi-million-dollar company in Keurig,” Robinson said.
As more big business concerns locate in Douglas County, it will help shift some of the burden of funding county government services from homeowners, he said.
“We have got a bipartisan group of elected officials who want to get the tax burden off our homeowners,” Robinson said.