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State grant gives Stanton Springs Parkway a boost
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The four-county Joint Development Authority has been awarded a $1 million state grant for the development of the first mile of road for the Stanton Springs parkway.

"We were pleasantly surprised that we got a million dollar grant as opposed to a combination grant/loan," said Newton County District 1 Commissioner and JDA Board Member Mort Ewing who traveled to Hawkinsville last week to accept the large check with other JDA members.

Stanton Springs is located off Interstate 20, between Covington and Madison on a 1,620 acre site. Developers of the mixed-use industrial park hope it will become a major economic driver for the four-county JDA area, attracting hundreds of well-paying high-tech jobs and thousands of jobs in the service industry.

Once completed, the park will feature residences, retail stores, business services, light industry and recreational facilities. The JDA has contracted with TPA Realty Services for the development of the park.

 Newton County and Walton County each have a 37.5 percent ownership share of Stanton Springs, according Denny Dobbs, who along with Ewing, represents Newton County on the JDA board of directors. Morgan County has a 15 percent ownership share and Jasper County has a 10 percent share.

Dobbs said the $1 million Equity Fund grant from OneGeorgia will be used to complete the parkway, which once completed will be a four lane road, separated by a landscaped medium, leading 2.2 miles through the industrial park.

To pave the first 1,800 feet of road, Dobbs said the JDA has already spent $1.1 million. The cost of finishing the parkway is estimated to be $2.4 million he said. The JDA started construction on the first phase of the parkway in August 2006.

Ewing said he took the fact OneGeorgia selected Stanton Springs, out of all the other projects vying for funding, as a measure of the state's high level of interest in seeing the project succeed.

Dobbs said he believed the collaborative nature of the JDA, plus its own previous investments into Stanton Springs gave it a leg up compared to other projects competing for OneGeorgia development grants.

"When they made the presentation, they sort of recognized us as counties that are doing it right," Dobbs said, adding the JDA members have already spent $10 million in purchasing the land for Stanton Springs.

Calling Stanton Springs a 30-year project, Ewing said he felt the project, in its ninth year now, was right on track.

"We feel we are on schedule," Ewing said, adding that even without the parkway to show to prospective tenants, Stanton Springs has come a close second to several major industries looking in the Southeast for locations to open new plants.

"Once we get the road, so people can ride in, and get it completed, we think that'll give us a real opportunity to attract the businesses we're looking for," Ewing said.

Dobbs said he felt the central location of Stanton Springs - the park is within a 45 minute drive in any direction of major centers of higher education in Atlanta, Augusta, Athens and Macon - as well as its water supply has set up the park to be a major center for high-tech jobs in the future.

"We're well positioned to take advantage of our natural resources, if we're good stewards," Dobbs said.

Added Ewing, "We've got the closest to a sure thing anyone can have."