Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp touted Bryan County’s massive Mega-Site as one of the best in the nation during a visit to the site on Friday.
“Welcome to the hottest mega-site in the country,” Kemp said as he took the podium on a hot and humid afternoon. “And I’m not just talking temperature wise, either.”
Standing beneath a canopy erected off a dirt road somewhere about a mile from Highway 280 and not far from I-16, Kemp proceeded to sing the praises of the 2,284-acre site, first put together in 2015 in an effort to bring Volvo to Georgia.
He was clearly preaching to the choir.
“This is what we’d hoped for,” said longtime Development Authority of Bryan County member Sean Register, on his last term and again serving as chairman. “This is going to be as big as Gulf Stream, but it’s not going to fly.”
The state is in the process of buying the Mega-Site, so called because it’s bigger than 1,000 acres – which Development Authority of Bryan County CEO Anna Chafin said is how economic developers define such tracts of land.
And while nobody will yet say – at least, not until the deal is closed – what investment the state and four counties who comprise the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Joint Industrial Authority are making in the Mega-Site, it’s being funded at least in part by Amazon’s purchase in May of an industrial park in Chatham County Officials say details of the deal will be released once the sale is closed. And they make it clear this won’t be another industrial “park,” in that the site won’t be cut up and parceled out.
The goal is to bring in as big a manufacturer of original equipment as possible.
“It’s going to provide jobs and spinoffs in the four county region,” Register said. “This is not only a good thing for Bryan County, but the whole region.”
Kemp, and others at Friday’s tour, said the site’s draw is its proximity to I-16, I-95, the ports, rail and the topography. It’s also level, they say, roughly 80 feet above sea level across much of it, meaning it will be easier to develop.
Other pluses include the site’s nearness to Interstate Centre’s I and II, which are booming, and industrial infrastructure such as water and sewer and power. At least some of the permitting for wetlands and wildlife impacts has also been done, thanks to efforts to land Volvo in 2015.
The groundwork done and experience with wooing Volvo may have made the Mega-Site so attractive to economic developers now, Brad Brookshire said.
“I think it’s good all of this land cobbled together back then was held together,” said Brookshire, who represents District 4 on the Bryan County Commission. “It’s just too hard to put something like this when the need arises. You have to do it beforehand. And I think that’s what really put this on the map. Maybe we were upset that Volvo didn’t come here back then, but that started the ball rolling.”
“”This,” Brookshire added, “Is a regional play much bigger than just Bryan County. We’re excited and thankful it is in Bryan County. It is by far a regional opportunity we’re just glad to be a part of.”
The Mega-Site’s regional import drew representatives from Effingham, Chatham and Bulloch counties as well as local officials, including Pembroke Mayor Judy Cook, Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter, County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger, also chairman of the JDA, and Bryan County School Board Chairwoman Amy Murphy.
Murphy emailed a statement of behalf of the entire school board. “The Bryan County Board of Education is proud to work closely with local leaders in supporting new economic development for Bryan County. As industries make decisions on investment within a community, they need a skilled, dependable, and trained work force. We will continue to focus on job readiness, as an excellent public school system is a natural conduit to supply the work talent needed. The Board of Education supports job-creating opportunities that will further strengthen our community and have a positive economic impact.”
Carpenter called the site was, “a boon for Bryan County. The potential economic impact, especially job creation, is exciting. To live and work in the same county or city is what we are aiming for,” he said.
Cook, whose city is closest in proximity to the Mega-Site, said Pembroke is already experiencing controlled growth and expects more if officials find a client for the site.
“We’ve got to be prepared for the influx,” she said. “It’s going to impact us. It’s hard to say right now what the impact is going to be, but I think it will be positive because of the leadership involved and the cooperation between all the entities. I’m very confident in the leadership.”