Industry Traveling Down I-16
During his address at the Greater Vidalia Chamber State of the Industry on Thursday, October 5, President and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority Hugh “Trip” Tollison informed attendees of the possible industrial opportunities that will be traveling westward from Savannah down I-16.
Tollison – whom Greater Vidalia Chamber President Michele Johnson described as an “economic development powerhouse” – began by informing the audience about the recent Hyundai megasite acquisition. According to Tollison, four counties – Chatham, Effingham, Bulloch, and Bryan – all shared a similar desire for increased industrial investment in the large undeveloped area along I-16; thus, they joined together in 2014 to form the Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Joint Development Authority to begin working together to try to gain industry within the area.
“We wanted to pool our resources together and, basically, go after a largescale project that would have a big impact on the region,” he emphasized.
The Authority knew that they wanted to attract an original equipment manufacturer into the area. The group entertained many projects, including the Volvo project – during which the site was named a finalist in location considerations. “We learned a lot from losing that project, but at the end of the day, we are 10 times more blessed to have the Hyundai plant than we did the Volvo project because the Volvo project was a lot smaller and did not contain the supplier network [that Hyundai does],” Tollison added.
As companies continued to peruse the megasite for their projects, it became obvious that the Authority would need to own the land. “It is 3,000 acres,” Tollison explained. “We had to go and work with multigenerational families that owned the property – and the property had sat with these families for a very long time. Every member of the family had their own opinion of what to do with the property, so as land prices started going up –especially with all of the industrial stuff that is going on in our region – we had to work very hard and quickly with these land owners in order to buy the property.”
The Authority partnered with the state of Georgia to take the risk of purchasing the property. “I can’t say enough good about Governor [Brian] Kemp,” Tollison shared. “He was there right at the beginning and wanted to take the same risk that we did.”
To pay for this large megasite, the property near the Mitsubishi facility – at the corner of I-95 and I-16 – was sold to Amazon and other developers. Yet, the work was only beginning on the megasite, which, though purchased, had no tenant or water and sewer.
“In the race of the electric vehicle market, speed-to-market is very important,” Tollison continued. “We had to have everything in hand – in other words, the company did not want to leave anything unchecked.”
The site is the largest economic development deal in the history of the state, as it is equivalent to one-third of the incorporated area of Statesboro. It is also 80 feet above sea level, which Tollison said has greatly helped in the construction process of the plant.
“We are going to concentrate a lot of the industrial development around I-16 to avid running off into the communities,” Tollison told the audience. “If you drive down I-16 right now, you will realize that industrial growth is really starting to pop.
Investment and Job Creation The site is a $5.54 billion investment, which will create an estimated 8,100 jobs to the area. Hyundai suppliers are also expected to invest within the corridor and further westward.
Hyundai Motor Group anticipates that 300,000 units per year will be built and shipped out of the metaplant. The facility has a capacity to make up to 500,000 units if the market demands it.
The battery plant extension, which is a partnership with LG that was announced in August, will increase the investment within the area to $7.59 billion and create an additional 500 jobs.
Jobs will also be created through Hyundai suppliers, which are moving into the areas near I-16 and the metaplant. “Right now, we’ve announced $2.128 billion worth of suppliers [investments] and another 5,400 jobs,” Tollison remarked. “All of these facilities are under construction right now, just like the metaplant. I think that Vidalia and Toombs County has a great opportunity to get some of the future work that is coming. They have done most of the Tier 1’s, but the Tier 2’s and Tier 3’s will follow. If you draw a 75 mile circle around the metaplant site, all those communities are going to benefit from this deal, and we’re seeing that now.
Currently, surrounding construction crews are also benefiting from the Hyundai project, as companies, like McLendon Enterprises who is currently clearing the site, are being contracted to complete the facility. According to Tollison, it is expected that 4,500 workers from area businesses will be on the site daily after Thanksgiving. These local businesses are reviewed from their input into the Authority’s website, which allows contractors to submit their qualifications and name for consideration of the project by Hyundai leaders.
What to Expect
He also emphasized how fast the megaplant deal was made, as he shared the following timeline: Project Received January 6, 2022 e First Request For Information Due – January 7, 2022 Hyundai's First Team Visit to Site – January 27, 2022 Will Serve LeGers Due – February 11, 2022 Hyundai Engineering Team Visits Site – February 14-15, 2022 Hyundai Chairman's Visit – February 22-23, 2022 State and Utility Commitment Letters Due – March 11, 2022 California Hyundai Headquarter Presentation Incentive Pitch – March 22, 2022 New York Meetings at the Genesis House – March 28-30, 2022 LeGer of Intent Signed – April 25, 2022 at 10:32 p.m.
Hyundai Task Force Team Visits Site – April 2729, 2022 Deal Point Nego tiation in Atlanta – May 5, 2022 Announcement of Project – May 20, 2022 Site Clearing Begins – August 1, 2022 Groundbreaking October 25, 2022
Construction Starts January 16, 2023 BaGery Expansion Announcement – August 31, 2023 “At the beginning of the process, if you don’t turn something in, you’re out [of the running],” Tollison said. “When they ask you to do something, you do it – it doesn’t matter what else you have going on, because at the end of the day, these site consultants know they can go anywhere, and they are going to go to the places where people are aggressive and ready to go to work.”
He continued, “This company moves extremely fast. Usually, a project this size and scope takes 18 months to make a decision – they made a decision in 4 months. You have to be ready.”
Johnson also commented on this phenomenon, as she explained to the attendees what to expect within Toombs County regarding potential industrial development in the coming months. “This happened very quickly. We don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time on these projects. We have to have a product; we have to be very responsive right out of the gate, and we don’t say no,” she told the group.
She referenced the lack of resources on the metaplant site, and the resourcefulness which the Authority had to pull water and sewage services from nearby cities. “You’re getting water from Bulloch County; you’re getting natural gas from Claxton. You’re investing so much money,” she continued. “If we want to grow, that’s what it’s going to take for positive growth.”
Johnson also encouraged the public to be open to new ideas and collaborations throughout the future. “[The counties] area all facing the same issues. We need to be prepared to work together – we do very well with that in our community, but we need to make an effort to keep doing that because that’s going to make us be more responsive. We need to work with our neighbors. There may be a project in the future where Toombs County is investing in another county, and this is the why – we are not an island.”
“State of” Addresses Update During the event, the Greater Vidalia Chamber announced that they plan to continue to host the “State of” addresses in 2024, as the planned events include the State of Agriculture, State of Cities and Counties, and the State of Education.