COVINGTON, Ga. — It took almost 23 years but Newton County has been made “whole” on its investment in Stanton Springs technology park.
The park that began literally as a dream of a former Newton commission chairman has paid off after an industrial recruiter gave a $2.6 million check to county commissioners Tuesday night.
Serra Hall, representing the Joint Development Authority (JDA) of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties, said the funds are intended to "make the county whole" for its original investment in Stanton Springs in 1998.
Hall delivered the funds totaling $2,606,250 that represents the 37% share Newton County agreed to fund in the original 1998 agreement that established the park.
She said the check was part of the proceeds from the sale of the technology park’s final 620 acres to the company, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed.
The JDA gave the four counties a total of $6,950,000 and the $2.6 million was Newton County’s 37% share.
Hall, who is also vice president of project development for the Newton County Industrial Authority, was part of the group that recruited the company identified as Baymare LLC.
Newton commission Chairman Marcello Banes said the payment showed the "only way you relieve the taxpayers' burden" is by recruiting industry that helps take some of the burden for funding public services off property owners.
“This is going to be a huge help to the people of Newton County,” he said.
Hall said the county would need to collect property taxes from 968 homes valued at $200,000 apiece to equal the single $2.6 million payment from the sale of the land to a potential employer, Hall said.
Banes also is a member of the JDA that approved a $42 billion bond issue and a purchase and sale agreement Feb. 23 for Baymare.
As part of the deal, the JDA agreed to sell the land in the park that covers parts of northeast Newton and the three other counties near Social Circle.
Kathy Morgan, the widow of former Newton County Commission chairman Davis Morgan, said her husband came up with the idea for an industrial park shared by four counties in 1996 literally in a “dream” while sleeping.
She said Davis Morgan realized some job-producing industry was needed so Newton County's young residents could find jobs locally rather than having to move away. He also knew participation from all four counties, including Newton, was needed to develop and maintain the park, Mrs. Morgan said.
Mrs. Morgan served as county chairman from 2008 to 2012 when what is now Takeda Pharmeceuticals was recruited to the park.
She said the JDA almost "gave it up" before the company located there after more than a decade.
The agency then hired professionals like Hall and Shane Short of Walton County to recruit industries like Facebook, she said.
Facebook is nearing completion of one data center and is building a second one that will bring its total investment in Stanton Springs to about $1 billion.
Morgan credited Banes and Hall with making the park a success — illustrated by companies located in the park that have invested billions in Newton County, she said.
County Manager Lloyd Kerr said the money would be placed in the county's reserves fund until finance officials know how much tax revenue is available for the 2022 budget.
They then will determine how much of the new money they plan to move to the General Fund to fill gaps in the budget, he said.
Banes said he was “so grateful to the JDA and Serra Hall and Shane Short for working so hard to bring such great industries, community partners and jobs to our communities.
He credited Davis Morgan and previous boards in the four counties for having the “foresight” to establish Stanton Springs.
“The seeds sown by our past leaders is now bearing fruit to continue to make Newton County and our region prosper,” Banes said.