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Posted: December 9, 2011 12:00 a.m.

More industries choosing Covington

Covington continues to attract industries, including two small industries locating in Lochridge Industrial Park.

South Carolina-based Palmetto Automatic Sprinkler Company opened a new office in Covington, creating 60 jobs, and a second industry is expected to announce in January.

A third industry, A to Z Packaging relocated within Covington to Lochridge, off Ga. Highway 142.

These smaller companies will not receive any public incentives.

The openings come on the heels of locations of major corporations Amesbury Extruded Products and Vestar Technologies.

"We've done five deals, with one more we hope to announce in January, in the past two months. That's a good story," said John Drake with Pattillo Industrial Real Estate. Pattillo built and markets Lochridge park. "The I-20 market has really picked up; there was a slow period over the last two years."

Both Palmetto and A to Z are leasing 8,000 square-foot spaces in multi-tenant buildings. In all five recent locations, the ability for companies to move into existing buildings and quickly get business up and running was crucial, Drake said.

Palmetto Owner Scott Mill said he opened an office in Covington to expand Palmetto's footprint throughout the southeast, noting that Covington is closer to the Columbia, S.C., headquarters than Atlanta.

The new office created about 60 jobs, and Mill expects future growth opportunities. The Covington office is full service, including designing and installing sprinkler systems and servicing existing fire sprinkler systems. This is Palmetto's third office; the company employs approximately 140 total employees.

More industrial buildings needed
Covington was able to attract Amesbury, a $4 million investment and eventually 40 jobs, because it had a physical building available, as opposed to some nearby communities who only had open land and virtual building models to offer, said Roger Harrison, senior vice-president of economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

However, Covington's stock of available buildings is dwindling, and the Newton County Industrial Development authority is seeking to partner with a developer to build more shell, or partially-finished, buildings that can then be built out for a specific use. The authority would have to borrow money to build the buildings, but partnering with a private company allows the authority to attract industry while being profitable for the company.

The authority has had discussions with The Hollingsworth Companies, which both builds and markets facilities.
Hollingsworth generally creates virtual designs until an industry locates, and can build a facility in six months; however, that could cause some industries to pass Newton County over if they're working on a three-month timeline like Amesbury and Vestar.

The authority is willing to discuss a partnership with other qualified builders as well; arrangement parameters are flexible.

"Talking to state project managers, there's little in between. Either companies want to be up and running in 90 days or we're getting RFPs (requests for proposals) and we don't hear back for nine months," Harrison said. "If they're ready they're ready."

Contact the chamber at (770) 786-7510 to speak with Harrison.

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