Walton gets award for equipment

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- The Development Authority of Walton County has received a $500,000 Edge Award from the OneGeorgia Authority to purchase machinery and equipment for a new General Mills regional distribution center, Gov. Sonny Perdue's press office announced this week.

Nancy Kinsey, director of the Walton County Development Authority, said the authority applied for the award a while back. She said officials were told they had a good chance of getting the award, and offered to purchase the equipment as an incentive to get General Mills Operations LLC to locate its distribution center there.

"They needed a large tract of land and they did not want it to be next to its sister company in Covington. There's been a lot of scuttlebut about that, but it was never considered," Kinsey said.

The regional distribution center will be a 1.5 million-square-foot LEED certified facility on Hightower Trail in Social Circle. The $46.7 million project will create 112 new jobs over two years.

The center is expected to open in summer 2010, Kinsey said. Hiring will likely begin in March and is being done in cooperation with the Georgia Department of Labor and the Quick Start program, she said.

"This is a great boon to the community," she said.

General Mills Operations LLC is a subsidiary of General Mills Inc., a Fortune 500 company that has a manufacturing facility in Covington. Some of General Mills' more notable products and brands include Cheerios, Wheaties, Yoplait, Hamburger Helper, Green Giant, Betty Crocker and the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Perdue and the OneGeorgia Authority announced this week a total of $8.3 million in grants and loans that will leverage hundreds of millions of dollars in investments resulting in more than 1,000 jobs. Five EDGE awards totaling $2.5 million were announced for projects with a total investment of approximately $100 million and 677 new jobs within the next three years.

The awards are intended to create jobs, stimulate new private investment, support the retention of existing jobs and enhance regional competitiveness through capacity-building projects.