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Posted: November 12, 2011 2:12 p.m.

Metal industry comes to Covington

Covington is expected to gain 100 jobs during the next five years, after Vestar Technologies, a new industry, announced it will locate its headquarters and a manufacturing plant in Covington Friday.

After a decade-long drought of not attracting any new industries, Covington has recruited two companies in the past two weeks, with a third expected to follow shortly.

The appropriately named Project Leviathan is expected to bring $25.9 million in investment, equipment and building improvements, and could hire as many as 140 employees eventually. The average wage is expected to be $20 per hour. The company expects to operate on a partial basis by December 2011.

Shannon Davis, the chamber's director of business development, is working to match up Vestar with employees being laid off from Berry Plastics, which is closing its manufacturing on Industrial Boulevard.

The company will likely hire 30 employees to begin with and then add employees during the next handful of years.

All applicants for hourly positions can apply through the Covington office of the Georgia Department of Labor, 7249 Industrial Blvd. For more information call 770-784-2455 or visit the state's labor website at Applicants for management positions can apply through the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Vestar, which expects to launch its corporate website in the next week or so, will manufacture specialty metal products used in high-tech industries, including semiconductor and LED lighting.

Vestar will occupy a 99,000 square foot facility in Pattillo Industrial Real Estate's Lochridge Industrial Park, which is one of the main reasons the company chose Covington.

"We looked through a number of different states, way, way too many sites, and we focused on a facility, that was a big part of our search, and the access to people, not just hourly, but also, since it is the headquarters we'll have some (research and development), access to talented, salaried professionals," Chief Financial Officer John Moser told The News Saturday. "Covington's proximity to Atlanta helps a great amount, and the proximity to the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech and a number of schools in the southeast.

"One of the big things also was the utility rates. Covington and most utilities in the state were pretty favorable."

Covington beat out 12 other sites in Georgia, and an unspecified number of sites in the Carolinas as well said Roger Harrison, the chamber's senior vice president of economic development.

Moser said he expects most of the company's management and research and development workers to be hired in the region, and from Covington specifically when possible. The company expects to hire around 13 salaried management positions, Harrison said at Friday's Newton County Industrial Development Authority meeting.

"(However), companies don't see county lines. If they have to go 30 miles to find the right talent they will," Harrison said.

The authority offered tax abatement on property taxes to incentivize Vestar to locate in Covington. The company was not given any money, but it will save a total of $745,046 in taxes during the next seven years.

The Georgia Department of Economic Department also offered incentives in the range of $5 million, including job tax credits, sales tax exemption on machinery and equipment, QuickStart training, a port tax credit for shipments into the state and a $175,000 grant.

If by Dec. 31, 2019, Vestar does meet at least 90 percent of its stated investment level of 140 jobs, $25.9 million investment and $20 per hour average wage than it will have to repay part of the local tax savings it received. However, if it exceeds investment in any of those areas, than it can fall short in another area.

Neither Vestar nor Amesbury Extruded Products, which announced its arrival Monday, used site selection consultants, which made the process go more quickly. Neither company asked for huge incentive packages, and Amesbury did not receive any local incentives.

"These companies were looking for places to build their businesses. They want to be long-term partners," said Chairman Kathy Morgan Friday.

A third new industry is expected to announce its location to Covington soon.

Need for more available buildings
Amesbury and Vestar were both attracted to Covington because it had the existing buildings ready to allow the companies to begin operating within two to three months.

However, by taking those two buildings in Lochrdige Industrial Park, Covington now has a lack of medium-sized industrial buildings in the 50,000 to 100,000 square foot range, Harrison said.

Covington has several large facilities, between 200,000 to 300,000 square feet, including the Berry Plastics building, but a variety of buildings are needed to attract a variety of tenants.

Industrial member Bob Rutland said the majority of companies locate in existing buildings, as opposed to constructing new buildings.

The authority agreed to look at engaging in a public-private partnership with a firm to construct buildings on land owned by either the industrial development authority or city of Covington. Many of Covington's industries were originally attracted to the city by Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, which built many of the city's industrial buildings in past decades.

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