Wright: ‘We’re committed to quality job growth"
by Clay Neely
Coweta County fared better than many communities during the most recent recession, according to Greg Wright, president of the Coweta County Development Authority.
Wright emphasized the importance of courting the right industries for the region during his talk at Friday’s meeting of the Coweta Rotary Club, held at the Newnan Country Club.
“While we get our share of businesses whose average hourly rate is around $17 dollars per-hour, those aren’t the projects we want to work,” Wright said. “We’re committed to quality job growth in our community.”
While the Coweta County Development Authority helps recruit new businesses and helps existing companies expand, Wright feels that the development authority ultimately sees more economic growth from existing companies working on expansions rather than new companies.
“The Bonnell expansion was an amazing announcement for our community,” Wright said. “When they were facing a period of uncertainty regarding their future, they determined a way to set themselves up for success for the future. Their ability to add jobs has been a wonderful addition to our community.”
The recent announcement from Niagara Bottling LLC of a planned location in Shenandoah Industrial Park is one of the many promising projects that are on the horizon for the development authority. Wright was quick to promote the quality of communication between developers and local officials – an attribute that many prospective companies looking to do business in Coweta County find appealing.
“Niagara Bottling is the second largest bottling company in the United States and the largest private company,” Wright said. “When you’re attempting to recruit a water bottling company, the successful relationship that we were able to achieve with the Coweta County Water and Sewerage Authority was integral. I can’t say enough how much we appreciate them.”
Niagara’s proposed 450,000-square-foot facility would mark the company’s 18th location in the United States and aims to be in full operation by the end of 2014.
Wright also spoke to the importance of keeping lines of communication open between the authority and local industry.
“We make a point to reach out to our companies in the community,” Wright said. “We don’t want to be surprised by an announcement. We want to know if they want to expand so we can help – and if they have a problem, we can help bring in resources so they can find a solution.”
Wright also spoke to the challenges the authority is currently facing. Since last November, the vacancy rate for existing industrial inventory is now less than 3 percent.
“Eighty percent of new projects begin by representatives looking at an available building,” Wright said. “When we don’t have what they’re looking for, they move on to another location. However, we’re working to address this and hope to see some positive developments.”
Wright noted that the recent decision by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners to eliminate impact fees has sent a positive message to potential developers that the community wants to be supportive.
The recent groundbreaking for HealthSouth rehabilitation hospital further solidified Wright’s opinion that Coweta County is becoming a health care destination. However, it was only through a lengthy process that the new facility was finally allowed to proceed.
“The HealthSouth project was a very long process for us,” Wright said. “Our first meeting with them was in November of 2010 and they just recently broke ground. They knew that Coweta County was the place to be, but it was the Certificate of Need process that made the entire process so lengthy.”
As the authority now looks toward the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital that will fill the vacant former Piedmont-Newnan campus on Hospital Road, Wright feels that Georgia’s implementation of the Certificate of Need process is a hindrance for companies looking to expand.
The state Certificate of Need appeal hearing for the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital has been set for June 23-26 and from July 8-11, according to the most recent tracking report from the Georgia Department of Community Health Healthcare Facility & Regulation Division.
“The Certificate of Need process can cause serious delays – and for many companies, time is money,” Wright said. “If there are other states that don’t use the Certificate of Need process, the opportunity now exists for them to go elsewhere and that leaves us with a severe disadvantage.”