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Posted: October 27, 2011 7:23 p.m.

County to add 270 industrial jobs

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Kazuhiro Iwata, general manager of Nisshinbo's Amin Division, visits with Roger Harrison of Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Around 270 jobs are expected to come to Newton County in future months as three new industries have decided to call Covington home.

Projects Gray, Hall and Leviathon - none of the company names have not yet been released and only Hall has signed a lease - have all decided to locate industries in Newton County, while brake manufacturer Nisshinbo is also expanding and will add 50 jobs.

Two of these new industries were previously announced and participated in the recent Oct. 18 job fair. All three industries are goingto go into existing industrial buildings.

Project Leviathon is the largest investment at $26 million with 140 jobs at a pay of $20 per hour. The company is in advanced manufacturing.

Projects Hall and Gray will each add 40 jobs and a combined investment around $14 million. Gray is a metal fabricator while Hall is a plastics extrusion company.

Two of the projects came to the county because of previous relationships built by Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce. The other project was largely worked by Shannon Davis, director of business retention and expansion, before she handed it off to Harrison.

"Roger has been very proactive at building relationships with economic development leaders at the state and utility (major electric companies) level," said Chamber President Hunter Hall.

"We had a good product to sell," Harrison added. "We have a good reputation as being easy to work with, responsive and timely."

While speaking with The News, Harrison received a phone call from Andrew Newman, a senior project manager with the state economic development office. Harrison noted that Covington utility employees did a lot of research and legwork on Project Leviathon.

"It really makes a difference when a community knows what its doing," Newman said. "It makes my job easy."

Trip to Asia
Harrison hopes he'll be able to announce more investment in the near future, after returning from a successful visit to Asia.

He visited the Asian headquarters of local industries, Bridgestone Sports, Nisshinbo and SKC, on a nine-city tour that took him around China, Japan and South Korea. He also visited a Fibervisions facility in China.

"They've made a tremendous investment and have flown to our country many times, and this showed that we felt they were important enough to us to fly over there," Harrison said. "If we don't treat existing industries like prospects, another community will. It's much easier to retain than it is to recruit."

Harrison traveled to China with the American Chamber of Commerce Executives, a trip that cost $250, and then tagged on trips to Japan and South Korea using a $1,000 scholarship from the Georgia Economic Developers Association as well as some money from the city's discretionary economic development budget in its general fund.

He visited Beijing, Hangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou China; Tokyo, Chuo-Ku and Minami-oi, Shinagawa-ku in Japan; and Seoul and Suwon in South Korea. Davis helped coordinate the trip.

Harrison said the trip was to build relationships in the hopes that when those companies choose to expand their American operations, they will invest in Covington. He also wanted to get contacts with those company's suppliers in hopes of also recruiting the suppliers to Covington.

"International companies tend to cluster," he said.

His longest trip was a four-hour meeting with SKC and SK, the parent company of SKC, which is the third or fourth largest company in South Korea. Harrison was treated to a Korean barbecue lunch.

Harrison said Chinese companies do not participate in much direct foreign investment, so he will focus on recruiting Japanese and South Korean companies.

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