DALTON, Ga. - The success of the first large manufacturing recruiting project in years for Whitfield County shows it's open for business, officials say.
Local and business leaders marked the official opening of IVC US, a Belgian-based vinyl floorcovering company, on Monday with a ribbon cutting, speeches and plant tours. The building's 520,000 square feet house the company's U.S. headquarters, production line and distribution center.
"This puts Dalton and Whitfield County on the map as an attractive location for foreign investment," County Commission Chairman Mike Babb told about 200 people gathered for the grand opening in a room lined with vinyl and tile samples of floor covering.
Dalton and Whitfield County's carpet industry has been hard hit by the recession, with unemployment figures hovering above state and national averages. But in April unemployment in the county fell from 12.2 to 11.3 percent.
Attendees on Monday - Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House speaker David Ralston, Consul General of Belgium Benoit Standaert and IVC executives, along with dozens of local officials and business people - spoke about job creation and the impact the plant will have on the area.
Code-named Project Stella - a play on the word stellar and named after a famous Belgian beer - the $75 million dollar investment took 15 months to complete.
Filip Balcaen, chairman of the IVC Group, described coming to Dalton for the first time to view the site, where he found several houses and a few hills on the 44 acres.
"I thought it was a strange definition of an industrial park," he said. "But I came back in a few months and found 44 acres of flat land. In Europe they don't do this - this county's attitude toward investors is outstanding."
The plant, home of the longest vinyl flooring production line in the world, has about 100 employees and operates on two shifts. The business plans to add a third shift in the coming months.
Whitfield County offered IVC incentives, including purchasing and preparing the land for about $2.2 million and waiving property taxes for the first five years.
"Government doesn't create jobs - it creates the right opportunities for businesses," Cagle said. "Behind every job is a face, and behind that face is a family."
Contact Mariann Martin at 706-980-5824 or firstname.lastname@example.org.