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Chamber official: 2 industries eyeing Newton

COVINGTON -- Two industries are close to finalizing plans to locate in Newton, and an existing industry is ready to hire up to 60 new workers, Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall told officials this week.

Hall presented the Chamber's quarterly economic development update to both the Covington City Council and Newton County Board of Commissioners.

Hall said the industries have requested to remain anonymous until plans are finalized, but will be participating in a job fair hosted by the Chamber and the Georgia Department of Labor from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Georgia Piedmont Technical College, formerly DeKalb Tech, at 8100 Bob Williams Parkway.

Also, in hopes of attracting more businesses, the Chamber will be pushing for the county to hold a liquor by the drink referendum in November 2012, Hall said. The Chamber board of directors and Economic Development Roundtable voted unanimously in favor of supporting a referendum, he said.

"It's not that we don't have sufficient restaurants, it's not that we don't have sufficient retail, but we all know that we have enormous leakage," of retail dollars into other counties, Hall said, adding that liquor by the drink will attract national chains. Chairman Kathy Morgan said the BOC will hold a work session before the end of the year regarding the issue.

Commissioner Mort Ewing said that while he's heard plenty about how many sales dollars Newton is losing to other counties, he's asked for but never received data on how much the county is gaining from residents of other counties. He said there are lots of cars from Jasper, Butts and Walton counties at local shopping centers on any given day. He requested the Chamber compile and present that data.

Hall also reminded officials of the significance of the recent SKC Inc. expansion that is bringing 100 jobs and represents a $120 million investment.

Roger Harrison, vice president of economic development, is currently in Asia with the governor and other economic development leaders and will visit existing industries, including SKC, Nisshinbo, Bridgestone and Fibervisions to thank executives for being in Newton and encourage them to bring any expansions here.

"We're going to treat those industries like they don't live here," Hall said, adding that if, "We're not courting them, somebody else in the country will be."