You know it’s a big deal if longtime WTOC bureau chief Dal Cannady is in your neck of the woods, and he wasn't even by himself.
Reporters and anchors from local TV news stations were all over this thing like a cloud of sharp-dressed gnats, competing with slick looking social media bloggers and rumpled and sweaty print media reporters/photographers from the AP and AJC and area papers and news websites, all of us trying to find the best place to be on a day when they turned up the thermostat and humidity and all that stuff.
That’s how big a deal the Hyundai Motor Group announcement is for not only Bryan County, but the area and the state. Billions of dollars worth of big.
And it’s more than that, and over time we'll get to it.
But at its heart it’s about one word and generations here now, and those still to come.
As Anna Chafin, who heads up the Development Authority of Bryan County put it, it’s about the future. And it’s about opportunity.
It’s about opportunity of getting good paying careers for kids graduating from high school Saturday, and those now starting high school, and those who haven’t even started school yet.
It’s about opportunity for college kids looking to come back home and work in the same place they grew up.
And it won’t hurt taxpayers down the road, either. In that regard, whatever incentive package the state is working out – and officials say that will be released when it's complete – the magnitude of today’s announcement on a scale of 1 to 10 has to be somewhere around 100, and I'm not being silly.
Diversifying the tax base and bringing in an original equipment manufacturer will help everyone who pays property taxes. Bringing a reputable company like Hyundai to the community will bring others to the area, and others.
There’ll be some who’ll bemoan the changes it’ll bring to North Bryan, because North Bryan is going to change. It’s no secret there are predictions now North Bryan will see a growth and economic spurt that will make it more populated than South Bryan, and that will be something to see.
Once upon a time, you know, Pembroke was bigger than Richmond Hill, but that’s a story for another time.
As for the growth headed this way, I’ll probably whine some myself, because I like being out in the country away from subdivisions and traffic and strip malls and red lights and the rest of the stuff. I like small town versus big city, country versus planned communities, and I’m probably as guilty as anyone over NIMBY-ism over the years.
But as I try to remind myself at times like this, it ain’t about me. And I get why there was champagne and celebration and excitement, despite all the heat and dust and politicians.
What just happened is going to change a lot of things in Bryan County. Maybe some things won’t change, but a lot will.
This is big.
I’ve typed this out on a Friday night at home before getting ready to get up at the crack of dawn Saturday to drive to Brunswick to cover the Richmond Hill High School graduation. So call it a handful of first thoughts.
First, you see a lot of folks report that the Mega-Site is in Ellabell. I think it's in Black Creek. It apparently depends on who you talk to. Kinda like the highway signs on 280, I gather. Headed there from the east you get Ella Bell on at least one sign. Then somewhere else it turns into Ellabell.
I've always liked that.
About a year ago Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp rolled into town and called the Mega-Site “the hottest in the country,” and noted he wasn’t just talking about the weather. He was in jeans then. It was sweltering.
A year later and it was hot all over again, and there was the governor, only in a suit, announcing the state’s single largest economic investment project in history – as far as we know.
That the mood was celebratory and at times jubilant is understandable. That a lot of people put in a lot of hours to make it happen should be understandable. Government is nothing if it isn't people. We tend, I think, to look at government as the monolithic root of all evil, but the people who do the work more often than not do so because they have a sense of purpose and a desire to serve others. You learn that, being around them long enough.
Chafin, SEDA CEO Tripp Tolleson, their staff members, state folks, regional folks, local folks. They worked hard and they made it happen – in partnership with Hyundai’s leadership, of course. They deserve every bit of the thanks they got from peers and elected and appointed officials on Friday.
To earn it, that meant hours and hours away from loved ones, their kids, their spouses, their friends.
I think they’d tell you it was worth it.
In the meantime, there’ll be plenty of time to try and cover this thing in more depth as the weeks go by. Or longer. As Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger told me Friday.
“You’ll writing about this story for months.”
Rumpled as I was as all good print journalists tend to get with age, for a moment or two on the night before Friday's event I considered renting a tux.
Take care of yourselves.