Fort Valley, Ga. ( Associated Press) — The Georgia State and Peach County Development Authority has purchased 1,100 acres (450 ha) in central Georgia County for $18.6 million, hoping to attract large industry such as Rivian Automotive and Hyundai Motor Group. Plants that have recently been announced are east of Atlanta and near Savannah.
The state is already marketing the land, which is 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of Interstate 75 near Fort Valley, but officials say owning it makes it more attractive to the user.
“It boils down to market acceleration as a driving factor in the company’s decision-making process,” said Jessica Atwell, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The more we can do to accelerate that timeline, the more likely a company is to pick up the site.”
The development authority and the state on Wednesday completed the purchase of four different plots.
The site also has access to the Norfolk Southern Railway and there are plans ready for development. A conceptual site plan posted online by Peach County officials shows it is large enough to host an auto assembly plant.
The development authority’s executive director, BJ Walker, told WMAZ-TV, “It could provide easier access to the site with utility”, for large original equipment manufacturers.
Atwell said the state would “evaluate all opportunities” but “we would love to locate a single end user” who can make the best use of the site’s benefits. The state must approve the lease or sale of the property, Atwell said. He said that the demand for big sites is increasing in the state.
Hyundai said in May that it would invest $5.5 billion on an electric vehicle and battery plant in the Bryan County hamlet of Elabelle, which is estimated to employ 8,100 workers. State and local officials spent $61 million last year to buy 2,200 acres (900 ha) in the county. They later agreed to add 2,900 more acres (1,173 ha) for Hyundai, at an additional cost as yet, unknown.
Rivian said in December that it would invest in a $5 billion electric truck plant east of Atlanta that would employ about 7,500 employees. That plant is located on 2,000 acres (800 ha).
Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement, “Even after announcing two of the largest projects in the state’s history back-to-back, we remain focused on attracting key industries and investment by providing companies with project sites ”
Rivian’s location near the social circle drew protests from neighbours, who said it would spoil the rural area. At least some Peach County neighbors also say they aren’t excited for a large factory on a two-lane highway now dominated by peach and pecan groves.
“The potential environmental impact, I think, is greater than the risk we should be taking,” said neighbor Harry Haupt.
Peach County is already home to Blue Bird Corp., which has 1,800 workers at its school bus assembly plant.