MADISON, Ga. — With local industrial park Stanton Springs soon to be near max capacity, what’s next for the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties?
The JDA approved a $42 billion bond issue and a purchase and sale agreement during its Tuesday, Feb. 23, meeting in Madison for a company named Baymare.
As part of the deal, the JDA agreed to sell more than 620 acres of land within Stanton Springs, which Shane Short, executive director of the Development Authority of Walton County and lead economic development director for the JDA, said would essentially fill out the remainder of the industrial park.
Despite the JDA owning little property once the deal is finalized, Short said, it does not signal the end of the road for the development authority.
“This is not the end of the JDA,” Short said. “There will be more information coming out soon about our future and where we’re headed. And we’re real excited about that. This Joint Development Authority, even if we sold every bit of land that we had, would still be in existence because they’ve got park management, they’ve got bonds … money comes to them and back to the county, so it’s going to be around.”
The JDA was originally formed in 1999. Short said the current agreement in place among the four counties was to last 50 years.
“I think we’re maybe six years into that agreement,” he said. “The JDA will exist way past my lifespan.”
In 2000, the JDA created the Stanton Springs site, which totals more than 1,600 acres near the intersection of Interstate 20 and U.S. Hwy. 278.
Although the industrial park project sets within portions of Morgan, Newton and Walton counties, Jasper County also elected to invest. Newton and Walton counties invested 37.5% stakes in the project, Morgan County 15% and Jasper County 10%.
It wasn’t until 2012 that Baxter International chose Stanton Springs to build what would become a 1 million-square-foot Takeda Pharmaceuticals facility, which opened in 2018. Riding that momentum, state officials announced Facebook would invest $42 billion to build a data center, which created 250 jobs and a big payout for the JDA. In June 2018, the JDA board distributed $2.5 million to its four counties.
Serra P. Hall, vice president of project development with the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, echoed Short’s excitement for the future and said the JDA works well together, which has been vital to its success.
“I think we’re excited as a whole just about the bonds that it’s brought together with our four counties and what’s next,” Hall said. “As we’ve said, we’re not finished and so there’s a lot of exciting things to come, but the great news is that we work really well together within these four counties and we’re proud of that.”
Short said there was no telling how different each county’s landscape would be today if not for the JDA.
“I really honestly believe if it weren’t for those four counties joining together to share in the cost and the revenue, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he said. “Because that burden is heavy for one governing entity to carry. And by everybody taking a piece of that big pill, it helps to swallow it a lot easier, and that’s what’s happened now.”
The JDA’s success has been unmatched to date, but Short said many counties and governing bodies have asked how they can replicate it.
“We are an example for other communities to follow,” Short said. “We’ve been asked to speak to other counties about how you do this and how do you make this work.
“When the JDA was first formed, it was innovative and it was controversial and it took a while for them to be successful. But when it did happen, you know, we have billion-dollar industries there now. That’s no small feat. And we’re going to have another multi-billion-dollar industry there really soon.”