FORT VALLEY, Ga. – The state of Georgia and the Peach County Development Authority bought 1,100 acres (450 hectares) in central Georgia County for $18.6 million, hoping to attract big industry like Rivian Automotive factories and Hyundai Motor Group that were recently announced east of Atlanta. and near Savannah.
The state has already commercialized the land, which is 5 miles east of Interstate 75 near Fort Valley, but officials say owning it makes it more attractive to a user.
“It’s like saying that speed to market is a determining factor in a company’s decision-making process,” said Jessica Atwell, spokeswoman for Georgia’s Department of Economic Development. “The more we can do to speed up that timeframe, the more likely a business is to choose a site.”
The development authority and the state on Wednesday finalized the purchase of four separate plots of land.
The site also has access to the Norfolk Southern Railway and plans are ready for development. A concept plan for the site posted online by Peach County officials shows it is large enough to accommodate an auto assembly plant.
“It can provide easy access to a site with utilities” for larger original equipment manufacturers, BJ Walker, executive director of Development Authority, told WMAZ-TV.
Atwell said the state would “evaluate all opportunities” but “we would prefer to locate a single end user” who can make the most of the benefits of the site.” The state must approve the rental or sale of the property, Atwell said. The state is seeing increased demand for larger sites, she said.
Hyundai said in May it would invest $5.5 billion in an electric vehicle and battery plant in the Bryan County hamlet of Ellabell that is expected to employ 8,100 workers. State and local authorities spent $61 million to purchase 2,200 acres (900 hectares) in the county last year. They later agreed to add another 2,900 acres (1,173 hectares) for Hyundai at an undisclosed additional cost.
Rivian said in December it would invest in a $5 billion electric truck factory east of Atlanta that is expected to employ about 7,500 workers. This factory is located on 2,000 acres (800 hectares).
“Even after back-to-back announcing the two largest projects in state history, we remain focused on attracting key industries and investments by providing the project sites businesses need,” said Governor Brian Kemp in a statement.
Rivian’s location near Social Circle drew opposition from neighbors who said it would spoil the rural area. At least some Peach County neighbors also say they aren’t thrilled about a large factory on a two-lane highway now dominated by groves of peach and pecan trees.
‘The potential environmental impact I think this risk is greater than we should be taking,’ neighbor Harry Houpt said.
Peach County is already home to Blue Bird Corp., which has 1,800 workers at its school bus assembly plant.