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Posted: June 10, 2009 12:30 a.m.

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Breaking ground

Construction begins on General Mills plant in Social Circle


General Mills broke ground in Social Circle Monday on what will be its largest distribution center in the United States, a 1.5-million-square foot, $42 million facility at 5239 E. Hightower Trail.

The center is scheduled to be completed by Spring 2010 and will employ around 112 people; hiring will begin in early 2010 and will be handled by Utah-based Exel Resources, a third-party logistics company. The building will contain 35 acres under its roof and, with parking and other facilities, will take up around 50 acres of the 132-acre property leaving plenty of room for expansion, General Mills and Social Circle officials said.

Mike Nordstrom, vice president of corporate services for General Mills, said the center will be the largest General Mills distribution center in the country and will carry General Mills full line of dry, non-refrigerated goods and will be LEED-silver certified.

“This is a special day for General Mills and represents many firsts for Georgia and for General Mills,” Nordstrom said. “We’re grateful to be expanding into an area we know… The workers in Georgia are dedicated.”

Lee Anderson, manager of state and local government relations for General Mills, said the Social Circle location was chosen because it is central to the entire Southeast, from the tip of Florida to the mid-Atlantic region. The proximity to the Covington plant was an added benefit, although the distribution center will receive dry goods products from around the country, and the Covington production plant will continue to ship dry goods all over the country.

Anderson said the large land acreage will allow the company to efficiently load and unload trucks, and the proximity to the CSX rail line will give the company another option to receive raw materials.

The Rockefeller Group Development Corporation will be the developer of the center, and Les Smith, executive vice president of development for RGDC, said the center will be state-of-the-art. Atlanta-based MacGregor Associates Architects is doing the architectural planning and Atlanta-based Cyclone Land Development was awarded the site-work contract.

RGDC completed the final specifications for the center last week and bid out the contractor position on Friday. Four contractors have already placed bids and a final contractor will be chosen by July 1, Smith said.

The project was a large undertaking, but came together fairly quickly because of the hard work of all parties involved, officials said. Officials from General Mills, the Ga. Dept. of Economic Development, RGDC, Walton County and Social Circle gathered on site Monday to congratulate each other on a job well done.

Ken Stewart, commissioner of the GDED, said the state and local officials did a great job selling General Mills on the Social Circle location and he hoped that General Mills would continue to look to Georgia as it expands in the future.

“I want to say welcome to General Mills,” Stewart said. “If we’re honest with ourselves, the whole group of partners came together to complete this in a short period of time. General Mills made a big bet on Georgia already (in Covington) and they’re making another bet on Georgia now and the people here. I know General Mills will be successful when I think of cooperation needed to make this happen. It’s a great day for Georgia, Walton County and Social Circle. It’s up to us at the state and local level to take advantage of the strategic location we have here in this state. I hope (this is) not the end.”

Kevin Little, chairman of Walton County Board of Commissioners, said the county was excited to have General Mills come to Walton County and will continue to promote economic development.

“We’re very proud to have General Mills be a partner here,” Little said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride to land this thing, but it’s been a fun ride. We’re here to promote economic growth and development and we want to be economically friendly. The cities and county are united to make Walton County a better place. What a great day for Walton County; we’re so excited to have General Mills here.”

At 112 jobs, General Mills would become the 10th largest employer in Walton County, according to the county’s chamber of commerce Web site.

General Mills donated five acres of the 132-acre site to the Walton County Fire Department as it strives to be a good community partner, Anderson said.

According to the a company press release, General Mills operates in more than 100 countries and markets more than 100 consumer brands, including Cheerios, Häagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury. The company is headquartered in Minneapolis.

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