DALTON, Ga. - Hit hard by the recession and struggling with unemployment numbers above state and national averages, Whitfield County officials had a good day Monday.
They announced the building of a new floorcovering business expected to create 200 new jobs in the area and celebrated the official opening of another company that already has hired more than 100 people.
Whitfield unemployment dropped from 12.2 to 11.3 percent in April, and with Monday's announcement, officials said they hope the county has turned the corner.
The Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority and county commissioners met in specially called meetings Monday to put the final stamp of approval on plans to spend $3 million to purchase land and prepare it for the new business site, JBBS Holdings, a floorcovering business in Northwest Georgia.
According to the contract, letter of intent and the lease agreement approved Monday, the Joint Development Authority plans to purchase a 42-acre tract at the Whitfield Properties Business Park in southern Whitfield County for the new business.
In a second bit of good news, Belgian-based IVC held its grand opening Monday, with dignitaries from Belgium and Georgia attending. The $70 million plant in Dalton is expected to employ 115 workers.
JBBS will lease the land and build a 200,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, investing about $65 million into the project, said Elyse Cochran, executive director of the Joint Development Authority.
County Commission Chairman Mike Babb said the facility is the company's first in Whitfield County.
The first business phase will create about 200 jobs, and additional expansions may create up to 300 more, Cochran said. The site provides the company room to expand as needed.
Those jobs are expected to pay about $15.32 an hour, which is 14 percent above the average hourly pay in the county, she said. It is also expected to bring in more than $500,000 in property tax revenues every year.
Construction at the site will begin in July and be completed by March 2012, according to the letter of intent.
The letter outlines the terms of the lease, with JBBS paying the authority $10 a year for rent and the option to purchase the land for $10 in 2012. The option to purchase the land must be exercised before October 2012.
The county will use revenue bonds to pay about $1.4 million for the 42 acres, and rough-grading the tract is expected to cost an additional $1.5 million, according to the contract. The county has not offered JBBS any tax abatements as part of the deal, Babb said.
Even though county officials have said they want to diversify beyond the area's floorcovering and carpet industries, Babb called the newest business a "pretty good deal" for the county.
"Our goal is to draw in new tax revenue and to retain businesses," he said. "We have to fight just as hard to get floorcovering jobs as any other jobs."
The expansion of the Whitfield Properties Business Park showcases that the county has two viable sites available for new facilities, Cochran said.
The recently created Carbondale Business Park, near the Whitfield Properties park, is considered a Class A park, with underground utilities and visibility to Interstate 75, while Whitfield Properties is a Class B park that provides a business site at a lower cost, Cochran said.
Contact staff writer Mariann Martin at email@example.com or 706-980-5824.