Stanton Springs gets $1M grant

COVINGTON - The state's OneGeorgia Authority has awarded a $1 million Equity Fund Grant to the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties to help complete the first mile of a publicly owned parkway into Stanton Springs mixed-use business park.

Gov. Sonny Perdue awarded the grant to the JDA during a ceremony held Friday at the Hawkinsville Opera House in Hawkinsville.

At the ceremony were District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing and Denny Dobbs, who represent Newton County on the JDA.

The Equity Fund grants are awarded to communities and regions in rural areas of Georgia to enable them to build the infrastructure necessary to support economic development in those areas.

The Stanton Springs development, on Interstate 20 between Covington and Madison, is a private-public partnership between the JDA and Atlanta commercial real estate developer TPA Realty Services LLC. The development spans 1,620 acres and is modeled on a Smart Growth master plan that incorporates a range of uses including office, residential, municipal, retail, light industrial and commercial.

The JDA started construction on the first phase of the parkway in August 2006. At completion, it will span 2.2 miles, starting at U.S. Highway 278 and terminating at Sewell Church Road.

Ewing said the goal is to have the road completed by June 1, a necessary step to attract tenants.

"We feel that's an attainable goal now that we've got some extra cash," he said.

Dobbs estimated the total cost for the roadway to be about $3.5 million.

Stanton Springs was initiated by the JDA in 1999, the same year that body was formed with the goal of creating a major employment center that would provide jobs for residents of the four involved counties.

"We sold the project to the people as a 30-year project, so we feel like the project is pretty much on target," Ewing said. "We're in the ninth year."

Ewing said companies continue to make inquiries about the park, though no tenants have signed on yet. Several years ago, the park was on the short list of sites for a new plant by Merck & Co., a global manufacturer and distributor of pharmaceuticals, but lost out to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

"We continue to have a lot of inquiries about development in the park. TPA Atlanta continues to develop leads and the state of Georgia continues to send people to us," Ewing said. "We are very pleased with the level of activity we have received with people being interested in locating in the park."

Leaders from other counties, including Bryan County in southeast Georgia, have approached the JDA about how to start similar projects, Dobbs said.

"This is a big deal for the four counties, and it's an especially big deal to have four counties come together and make a long-term commitment that will have a long-term impact on the community in a positive way," he said.

Ewing said the goal is to create a project similar to John's Creek in Atlanta, also handled by TPA.

"John's Creek has the highest per capita income of any location in Georgia, and we're trying to duplicate that," Ewing said. "We think this $1 million will be a step in that direction."

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.