Massive industrial park near Rivian EV plant proposed east of Atlanta

Gov. Brian Kemp stands next to a Rivian electric truck while announcing the company's plans to build a $5 billion plant east of Atlanta projected to employ 7,500 workers, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Atlanta. Some residents oppose the plant, saying it will spoil their rural quality of life. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

A company is pitching a sprawling warehouse and industrial complex in Covington, east of Atlanta, that would nearly double the industrial space in Newton County's seat, and add to the region's explosive surge of distribution and light manufacturing space.

The proposed 4-million-square-foot industrial park, bigger than two Lenox Square malls, spans nearly 500 acres, according to state paperwork filed last week. Dubbed the Covington Industrial Park, the project includes e-commerce, manufacturing and general warehouse space - sectors that have been booming for years, but particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The industrial park, whose developer hasn't been publicly announced, would also be the latest gigantic investment by the industrial sector along the I-20 corridor east of Atlanta, and it would join the nearby $5-billion Rivian project in transforming the area. Marc Beechuk, the planning director for Covington, told the Atlanta Journal- Constitution the city and surrounding area is just beginning to see the effects of the industrial investment.

"The development out here is just off the charts from what I've seen in the past," he said.

Warehousing, spurred by the growth of e-commerce, has fueled a light industrial boom not only in metro Atlanta but across the state. Disruption caused by COVID-19 sent demand for rapid home and business delivery into overdrive.

According to real estate services giant CBRE, five warehouse buildings totaling nearly 1.5 million square feet opened along I-20 east of Atlanta during 2021, and another 1.2 million square feet of projects are currently under construction there. All of those are speculative, meaning they do not have named tenants attached to the projects.

It's unclear if the Covington proposal is speculative or if it includes one or more anchor tenants. Serra Hall, the executive director of the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, said she's been in preliminary discussions with the property owner and site planner, but she's not aware of any selected tenants.

She added that "at this time, there is no correlation or connection" between the industrial park proposal and Rivian, the electric vehicle startup that announced plans to build a massive vehicle and battery plant within 15 miles of Covington.