Rockdale-Conyers will celebrate the start of construction on refrigeration manufacturer Hillphoenix’s new 500,000 square foot facility in Rockdale with a groundbreaking ceremony April 18, signaling Rockdale’s arrival in the economic development field.
Mike Sullivan, chairman of the Rockdale Development Authority, said this was an opportunity to highlight the county and city’s economic offerings. “We’re going to use this as a springboard. This is to let everyone know that Rockdale County is in play.” He expects about 100 guests at the invitation-only event.
The new facility will consolidate three of Hillphoenix’s facilities in Rockdale and one in Newton under the same roof and will be the workplace of about 900 employees. The building, financed by Ashley Capital in a $30 million 15 year build to suit lease, also allows for future growth of the facility.
Trey Cown, vice president and general manager for the Systems Division of Hillphoenix, said, “This facility sets us up for the strategic plan for growth we have. This sets up comfortably until 2022.”
Cown said the company had needed to consolidate. “We had four facilities since we’d grown. We’re trying to leverage our strengths and ability in once facility.” They knew they had to stay in the general area since about 80 percent of their workforce was in Rockdale and Newton, and it came down to a site in Covington or a site in Conyers.
“Ultimately, we chose Rockdale for a couple of reasons. The site was already developed. We were farther down the road in getting a new facility built. They offered attractive incentives in tax abatements. Financially, it made sense.”
The City of Conyers had offered $4.1 million in abatement of ad valorem taxes over 10 years for the industry and waived permitting and inspection fees for the building, which could represent about $120,000 in savings. Rockdale County had agreed to monitor both water discharge and consumption to more accurately bill for sewage use and also to make sewer lines more readily available.
The location, between Gees Mill, Old Covington, and Sigman Road, was also right around the corner from three of Hillphoenix’s existing facilities so the commute would be the same for workers.
The icing on the cake was the education and training incentive. “They were willing to invest in education,” said Cown. “Rockdale and Newton have a great interest in helping us train our employees and invest in the people in the community.”
Rockdale Career Academy is working with the manufacturer to develop a Hillphoenix specific course and curriculum for students interested in going into refrigeration and display case manufacturing, said Cown, and the company is exploring developing work based internships.
As openings become available in the company workforce, students who have taken the course would be considered more appealing as applicants. “It would give those students an advantage because they have the training, but it’ll make them more valuable to the refrigeration market,” said Cown.
Hillphoenix, a leading manufacturer of refrigerated display cases, has 11 locations, including in Virginia, Iowa, Texas, California, Arizona, and Mexico, according to the company website. Phoenix Refridgeration began in Rockdale in 1988 and was purchased by the Dover Corporation in 1993. Phoenix acquired the Hill company in 1994.
If the weather holds out, construction on the site is estimated to be finished around mid-October, said Cown.