Newton saw new growth in 2008
175 jobs were added

COVINGTON - Despite the grim state of the economy, Newton County added jobs and saw plenty of economic development activity in 2008, according to the Economic Development Annual Report by the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

"Newton County experienced damage to its economy along with the rest of the country, but there were many positive actions and movement that will help us continue in the right direction as recovery begins," the report states.

In total, 175 new jobs were created and more than $25 million was invested in 2008.

Six companies announced locations in Newton County in 2008, creating more than 50 new jobs and selling or leasing more than 110,000 square feet of space.

In addition, expansions by FiberVisions Inc., Berry Plastics, C.R. Bard, MISA Metal Fabricating and SGD North America created 125 new jobs and $23 million of new investment.

Economic Development Director Shannon Davis received inquiries about Covington and Newton County regarding 28 projects, resulting in 13 site visits, said Chamber President John Boothby, who presented the report to the Covington City Council and Board of Commissioners this week.

"The good news is we've had activity. Most of the time, we don't win. Those are just the numbers. They look at maybe 50 communities and 49 are going to come in second," Boothby said.

Newton County is currently one of two finalists in the country for a development with the code name Project Visa that could locate in Stanton Springs, the 1,500-acre, four-county, mixed-use development along I-20, District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing revealed during the Board of Commissioners meeting.

On Thursday, Boothby said he could not provide additional information about the project. Ewing could not be reached for comment.

New efforts are being made to market Stanton Springs, owned by the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties.

Davis has worked with Georgia Power to create a map featuring Stanton Springs, showing the available workforce in a 5-mile concentric area, along with points of interest such as colleges, hospitals and golf courses.

A Stanton Springs Web site and DVD are also in the works, Boothby said.

"I think the message to take away from all this is that your relatively small investment in the chamber's economic development program has returned substantial dividends in a difficult economy and is helping Newton County regain its standing as an attractive location for new and expanding businesses," Boothby said.

The city and the county each contribute $54,000 for economic development services provided by the chamber.

Snapping Shoals EMC recently announced a donation of $10,000 from the co-op's unclaimed capital credit funds to the chamber.

The chamber plans to use the funds to help promote economic development through printed materials and to strengthen local elected officials' knowledge of economic development at the state level with a trip to the Cynergy Center in Atlanta. The officials will tour the offices of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia EMC and Georgia Power to further personal relationships with some of the state's business leaders.

Unclaimed capital credits are revenues over and above the cost of providing service for customer-owners of an electric co-op after financial obligations have been met. They are required by lending institutions to establish financial strength for loans.

Snapping Shoals EMC routinely refunds capital credits to members. Legislation passed in 2005 allows EMCs to retain certain unclaimed capital credits for local use rather than turning them over to the state. These unclaimed funds are used to support such programs as the Bright Ideas program, the Snapping Shoals EMC scholarship program, as well as other economic and community projects.

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