Economic Development Report submitted by Gerry Nechvatal, Community Economic Development Director, Pickens County Chamber of Commerce.For many 2014 marked a real turning point in the Great Recession and as usual, prior to moving north the upturn began more strongly in the populous counties closer to Atlanta, but reach us it did with most sectors showing improvement. Here are some highlights:
Industry made progress:
Oralco located its North American Headquarters here and celebrated with a ribbon cutting event attended by Governor Deal as well as Company Executives from the Netherlands.
Williams Brothers Concrete relocated its Headquarters and completed the move into a building on West Church Street.
The old shoe plant was renovated and converted into a competitive location renamed The Jasper Enterprise Center which offers flexible space and now houses 3 companies.
A soon to be announced new company established a carbon fiber manufacturing plant and has an innovative process that could make the firm highly competitive in the automotive supplier field with high growth and job creation potential.
New light industrial buildings have gone up in the long dormant Sharp Mountain Business Park located on Highway 108 just west of 515
A jeopardized emerging company and 30 jobs were salvaged from bankruptcy through the tremendous efforts of several individuals, two local banks, and the County Development Authority.
QSR (Lexington) completed an addition to the Pickens County facility and continues to be one of the largest employers in the community
Tourism and Entertainment continued to make a positive impact.
The annual Marble Festival was well attended and had great reviews for the quality of vendors in addition to the variety of activities
The first Jasper New Year’s event on Main Street took place with minimal issues and attracted a large crowd to downtown.
The second annual Sheriff’s JeepFest grew exponentially filling restaurants and lodging in addition to raising a significant amount of money for the Georgia Sheriff’s Youth Homes organization.
Visits by location scouts working on feature films and television shows were steady throughout the year with one of the most notable productions taking place at the Woodbridge Inn where a full episode of a new Travel Channel show was filmed.
The DOT funds for the relocation of the Tate Depot are finally being released and site work at the new location is currently underway.
A great deal of work was performed in support of the Port Royal Resort development that included helping to secure a property option to allow preliminary site studies, cueing up grants to offset the cost of potentially extending water and sewer service to the location and adjacent properties, as well as completing the Development of Regional Impact forms as required by the state.
Retail and Commercial gained momentum:
Main Street saw activity with Jasper Drug expanding its offerings as well as business relocations such as Coco’s Cottage, Lindsey and Pauley, and new establishments like Lolas Grill, which unfortunately recently closed but the chances are good the space will not be vacant for long
Onyx announced plans for a multi-use development on 515 that would include retail, residential, and aging in place facilities along with a public park.
Work on the first strip center by Wal-Mart began with Hibbett Sports and Dollar Tree announced as tenants.
Construction has started on a new Days Chevrolet location.
The old Lawson Chevrolet facility on East Church Street was purchased and redone for use by a heavy equipment sales business.
Buffalo Luke’s opened in the front half of the old KFC store with AT&T Wireless occupying the remainder of the building.
Driven by the strengthening local economy, job opportunities increased as supported by the Georgia Department of Labor static showing a 37.7% decrease in initial unemployment insurance claims in December of 2014 as compared to December 2013. The latest preliminary unemployment rates show Pickens County at 5.4% which is significantly better than the 6.7% state average.
With the known potential opportunities and numerous initiatives by the Chamber of Commerce aimed at further enhancing business growth, 2015 promises to continue the positive trend which should be very good news for Pickens County and City of Jasper citizens.