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Fifteen industries looking at county
Metal fabricator to decide in two weeks
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Newton County is in the running to land a high-end metal fabrication industry, which would bring 140 jobs and a $26 million equipment investment.

Roger Harrison, senior vice president of economic development, provided a brief update Friday to the Newton County Industrial Development Authority and said industrial activity was increasing, as evidenced by 14 industrial projects considering the county.

Board members welcomed the news because Newton County has not recruited a sizeable new industry in several years. The county has had three site visits in the seven working days prior to Friday, Harrison said. Companies don't generally conduct site visits unless they are seriously considering a community.

The metal fabrication company is likely to choose a new location within two weeks, Harrison said, noting that the company flew into Newton County on a helicopter the week before.

The company is looking at a building on Prater Drive in Lochridge Industrial Park; it would not purchase the building but would instead sign a 10-year lease. Harrison said industries are increasingly looking to lease instead of purchase buildings or land. That arrangement allows companies to hold onto their capital for other uses.

Wages for the 140 jobs could be in the $10 to $12 per hour range or higher, Harrison said. As a result, the company would only pay taxes on the $26 million of equipment it brings to the community, which would still lead to a sizeable tax bill. Newton County will likely offer a tax abatement on the equipment.

"I'm excited about this one," Harrison said. "With so many projects in the works, we'll have more abatements to bring to you in the future."

"It's very exciting," said Newton County Chairman Kathy Morgan.

Harrison said most of the other 14 projects are also large, generally more than 100 employees and looking for facilities greater than 100,000 square foot. Though the success rate for new industrial recruitment is generally very low, Harrison was optimistic the county would land at least one this year.

"It's a number game," he said.

Industrial marketer, builder makes pitch to authority

In related news, the industrial development authority heard a proposal from The Hollingsworth Companies, which markets industrial property and builds facilities.

Rick Meredith, senior vice president for community development, made a brief presentation to the board Friday.

Here's how the deal works: the county, city or industrial development authority would essentially give Hollingsworth control over two parcels, 15 acres each, that are ready for development. In addition, the government entity would pay Hollingsworth $54,000 over three years.

In turn, Hollingsworth would do additional site work, including environmental and geotechnical investigation, create a building design for the land and obtain a construction permit. A building wouldn't be constructed yet, but the site would be ready for construction immediately, and a building could be constructed within 6 months.

The local government would still have to pay for grading or other infrastructure.

Just as importantly, Hollingsworth would aggressively market the land and building design, because the only way for either party to benefit is for an industry to locate to the community. The county benefits by getting jobs and tax revenue, while Hollingsworth makes money by either leasing or selling the building.

Hollingsworth attends 12 trade shows a year, which Harrison said would cost him at least $24,000 to attend. Hollingsworth also does additional marketing, and has two private jets to allow it to fly prospects to industrial sites.

"To me, for $54,000, the marketing alone is worth it," said Covington Mayor Kim Carter.

Hollingsworth can design buildings for specific industries, like food processing, for which Newton County, with its abundance of water, is well suited.

"I think this is a good idea." Harrison said.

The industrial development authority will consider the proposal and have attorney Frank Turner Jr., who was absent from the meeting, examine a potential contract.