A prospective company that expressed an interest in establishing major operations at the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Industrial Park has been pulled from the list by local officials.
The reason: Water concerns.
“We couldn’t guarantee the company the amount of water usage they would need for their operations on a daily basis,” said Jonathan Jackson, executive director of The Development Authority of Milledgeville and Baldwin County (DAMBC).
As a result, he said the possible project had to be pulled from consideration.
“We tried to answer their question in a way that was less binding,” Jackson said. “But it turned out that we needed to just withdraw.”
Jackson’s announcement came during Monday morning’s monthly DAMBC meeting, which was held at the Baldwin County Government Complex. He explained the way the withdrawal happened.
“Regretfully, I’m afraid, we will have to withdraw for consideration for the project,” Jackson said. “From a utility standpoint, the project would not be a good fit.”
The executive director of the DAMBC said he expressed thanks to officials of the prospective company for considering Milledgeville and Baldwin County.
The prospective company had made no commitment to actually settle here. They were merely on a list that had made it to the site-selection phase, Jackson told board members.
The company, which had expressed an interest in land at the Daniel site off Georgia Route 22 in the industrial park, had indicated it planned to invest $420 million and hire 310 employees, Jackson said, noting the company would have used “huge” amounts of water for its operations.
“I hated to turn it down, especially who brought it to us,” Jackson said. “It was a direct result of the Developers Day. It hurt to turn it down, but we really needed to do that.”
Jackson contends that telling state economic development officials the truth was much better than trying to kick the can down the street without knowing what to expect.
Derek Williams, who serves as vice-chairman of the DAMBC, said the board couldn’t make promises it couldn’t keep.
“That would be much worse,” Williams said.
Later in the meeting, Jackson explained that members of the Propel Group decided to tag onto the Business and Retention Survey a discussion about water and how outages have affected local industries.
“We need data,” Jackson said. “We need to know a few things. We need to know if you were you affected. If so, how you were you affected? Did you incur losses? Did you calculate those losses? What did you do for sanitation? What did you do for operations?”
He said it’s his desire to collect such data.
Jackson also said he had emphasized to the members of the Propel Group to exercise some decorum because the time for finger-pointing was long passed.
“It’s time for us to stand with the repair or the upgrade, or whatever is needed,” he said, noting he didn’t care who did what because there is no time to care about such things. “And there’s certainly nothing we can do about it.”
He said the important thing he wanted members of the Propel Group to remember is they were representing themselves, but that they were also representing the city and county, as well as The Development Authority.
“And we’re representing the businesses that lost time and money, and we’re representing the citizens who weren’t affected at all,” Jackson said. “So, we have to remember that we’re not just on one facet of this – we’re on all of it.”
Jackson also mentioned there is some need for discussion concerning redundancy for the industrial park, the school system and the hospital.
“A county water line running side-by-side with a city water line, when there is an outage to just switch over – it’s a great idea,” Jackson said. “It’s not my idea for the hospital, but it is my idea for the industrial park and the school system.”
Jackson then turned to Walter Reynolds, a member of Milledgeville City Council who also serves as an ex-officio and liaison for the city with the DAMBC, to see if he had any comments related to the subject.
“I know you’re probably sick of talking about this,” Jackson told Reynolds.
The city alderman quickly responded.
“It’s not that I’m sick of talking about it,” Reynolds said. “I’m sick of nothing being done about it.”
Reynolds pointed out that this had been a topic of conversation among members of city council for an extended period of time.
“And I think we’re beginning to see some movement on that front,” Reynolds said.
He recently introduced a proposed resolution related to an action plan.
“Without much support from the other members of council, Hank (Griffeth) has taken up a number of those topics on his own,” Reynolds said.
Griffeth serves as city manager.
That proposed resolution is expected to be discussed further with other members of city council during Tuesday’s city council work session, which is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. in city council chambers.