FORT VALLEY, Ga. - The state of Georgia and the Peach County Development Authority have bought 1,100 acres (450 hectares) in the middle Georgia county for $18.6 million, hoping to attract a large industry like the Rivian Automotive and Hyundai Motor Group plants that have recently been announced east of Atlanta and near Savannah.
The state has already been marketing the land, which is 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of Interstate 75 near Fort Valley, but officials say owning it makes it more attractive to a user.
"It boils down to speed to market being a driving factor in a company’s decision making process," said Jessica Atwell, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. "The more we can do to speed up that timeline, the more likely a company is to choose a site."
The development authority and state completed the purchase of four separate parcels of land on Wednesday.
The site also has access to the Norfolk Southern Railway and plans ready for development. A conceptual site plan posted online by Peach County officials shows it’s large enough to host an auto assembly plant.
"It can provide for easy access to a site with utilities" for larger original equipment manufacturers, B.J. Walker, the development authority’s executive director, told WMAZ-TV
Atwell said the state will "evaluate all opportunities" but that "we would prefer to locate a single end-user" who can make the best use of the site’s advantages." The state must approve the lease or sale of the property, Atwell said. The state is seeing increased demand for large sites, she said.
Hyundai said in May that it would invest $5.5 billion on an electric vehicle and battery plant in the Bryan County hamlet of Ellabell that’s projected to employ 8,100 workers. The state and local officials spent $61 million to buy 2,200 acres (900 hectares) in the county last year. They later agreed to add 2,900 more acres (1,173 hectares) for Hyundai at an, as of yet, undisclosed additional cost.
Rivian said in December that it would invest in a $5 billion electric truck plant east of Atlanta that’s expected to employ about 7,500 workers. That plant is located on 2,000 acres (800-hectares).
"Even after announcing the two largest projects in the State’s history back-to-back, we remain focused on attracting key industries and investment by providing the project sites companies need," Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement.
Rivian’s location near Social Circle aroused opposition from neighbors who said it would spoil the rural area. At least some Peach County neighbors also say they they’re not excited for a big factory on a two-lane highway now dominated by peach and pecan groves.
"The potential environmental impact, I think, that risk is greater than what we should take," neighbor Harry Houpt said.
Peach County is already home to Blue Bird Corp., which has 1,800 workers at its school bus assembly plant.