COVINGTON - The first quarter of 2008 was a promising one for economic development, according to Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President John Boothby.
The Chamber worked on 19 projects during the quarter, and though most are still in the preliminary stages, there has been one commitment for an expansion by a local industry, Boothby recently reported to county commissioners
FiberVisions Inc. is undertaking an $18 million expansion of its plant on Alcovy Road that will bring in approximately 40 new jobs.
The expansion will allow the manufacturing of several hundred more tons of a new speciality fiber, according to Plant Manager Scott Powell. The expansion is expected to be completed by the end of the year, he said.
Some new hires have already been made, and the rest should be made by July, Powell said.
The plant, which has been in Covington since 1966 and was previously owned by Hercules, employees about 220 people in the manufacturing of polypropylene staple fibers used in the hygiene, textile, automotive and construction industries.
In addition to the FiberVisions expansion, there are 18 other projects that could potentially boost the local economy.
Boothby said it's a good sign that so many projects are in the hopper.
"Newton County is making a comeback in the eyes of the statewide development community, and I'm very proud to say that the Chamber's team is considered highly professional and competent by them," he said. "This translates, as you have seen, into increased project activity, which translates into increased economic development success."
Of the projects in development, two have been publicly identified - the downtown hotel/civic center and a private school project.
Thirteen of the 19 projects have code names, meaning they originated with the statewide economic development office or consultants.
Between $78 million and $88 million would be invested by the five projects with announced values, and 1,040 jobs could be added, based on the six projects with projected employment figures, Boothby said.
"Certainly not all of these projects will locate in Newton County. Some will go elsewhere, some will be suspended for reasons known only to the prospect, some will change in scope, some will die and some could land here," he said. "But by any measurement, the first quarter of 2008 has been a resounding success. Newton County's professional economic development team is trusted by the statewide (economic development) community, which brings us about 90 percent of new projects."
Boothby pointed out that the county also fared well in 2007, with the opening of Georgia Perimeter College and the relocation of LendMark, a subsidiary of BB&T, from Conyers, bringing 125 new office jobs.
In related news, PlyMart will continue to operate its Covington store, despite a recent announcement that the company will close its lumber division.
A housing slump and more than $2 million in customer debts pushed the privately owned company into the decision, according to Chairman Randy Mahaffey.
PlyMart's 10 stair and speciality division stores, including the Covington location, will remain open under the PlyMart name.
Gwinnett Daily Post Reporter Christy Smith contributed to this story.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at email@example.com.