By Sean Register, chairman of the Development Authority of Bryan County.
Throughout 2020, the Development Authority of Bryan County (DABC) faced many challenges, as did the rest of our community and country. Much of our staff’s time at the DABC early last year was spent working with existing industries, including manufacturing, assembly, and distribution operations and certain service businesses that support these industries, to help ensure the companies’ doors remained open and people could still earn their livelihoods. Our staff was also actively working on recruitment projects before and during the pandemic to encourage new industries to locate in our community. While last year was undoubtedly trying, we were very fortunate to be able to continue to create opportunities in Bryan County.
One of the DABC’s successes in 2020 included selling approximately 56 acres in the Interstate Centre II industrial park, adjacent to Interstate 16 in the Ellabell/Black Creek area, to CRG, a St. Louis,Mo.-based private developer. CRG is constructing a 700,000 square-foot speculative (spec.) building, which is scheduled for completion soon. Because of the noticeable lack of industrial warehouse space in the Savannah market, the spec. building will provide the DABC with an edge in attracting job-creating economic development projects to our community.
Adjacent to the 700,000 square-foot spec building in Interstate Centre II, CZM, a family-owned and operated foundation drilling equipment assembler, completed its new 47,000 square-foot facility last year. The approximately $6 million facility allowed CZM to expand its existing assembly operations, grow its total number of jobs to 75, and move its engineering and world headquarters operations to Bryan County from Brazil. The company still maintains a service and rental center in the Dixie Harn Industrial Park in Pembroke, where they are co-located with Savannah Global Solutions. CZM is creating quality jobs right in our backyard.
In Richmond Hill in the Belfast Commerce Park adjacent to Interstate 95, the DABC last year was pleased to announce, along with the city of Richmond Hill and private landowner, Raydient Places + Properties, the selection of the industrial park as the location for a new 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center for Medline Industries, a leading medical supply manufacturer and distributor. The project represents a private capital investment of nearly $70 million and will create 150 new jobs with the potential to grow to 600 jobs at full build-out of the facility. Additionally, FedEx Ground recently announced that it would lease 415,000 square feet of Medline’s building to use as a new sortation facility.
According to the company, the new sortation facility will allow FedEx to double its package capacity in the Savannah market, and the operation will employ hundreds of local people. The increased package capacity will be a significant benefit to e-commerce companies in the area, such as Spreetail in Interstate Centre II, and it could also assist the DABC’s efforts to attract new e-commerce industries to Bryan County.
More success came for Belfast Commerce Park in the form of the DABC’s purchase of approximately 198 acres of rail-served property in the park. The DABC property will be held specifically for manufacturing and assembly projects.
An added benefit is that the purchase triggered the creation of a Military Zone, which will allow companies located in the same Census tract as the Belfast Commerce Park (9203.01) to apply for increased state job tax credits. The creation of this Military Zone will give Bryan County a further advantage when competing for economic development projects.
The DABC’s commitment to creating opportunity is demonstrated by the industrial jobs and investment we have been able to help create, specifically over the last five years. Since November 2015, the DABC has announced 14 projects representing over $200 million of private capital investment and over 1,000 total jobs. We are looking forward to what 2021 has to offer and are eager to get to work building upon recent years’ success to generate more opportunities here in Bryan County.