Rockdale courting several industries for the area

CONYERS -- At least six prospective industries are looking to locate in Rockdale County near the Newton County line that could bring anywhere from 100 to 500 new jobs to the area.

Glenn Sears, director of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, gave an update Tuesday to the Development Authority of Rockdale County about economic development activity.

"Since last fall, virtually everything we've done is in manufacturing," Sears said. "When you read that there is a resurgence in manufacturing in the U.S., that's a fact."

Sears said that he and his team have six active projects that are coming together that should result in "good things happening pretty quickly for our community."

Specifically, he said a large tile manufacturer is considering purchasing 80 acres of land adjoining and to the west of the John Deere site.

If the company should decide to locate here, Sears said it plans to make at least a $70 million investment, creating 200 jobs over three years. The company plans to construct two 600,000-square-foot buildings, one for manufacturing and one for storage.

The one issue with the property, however, is a gully that runs down the middle of the land. Even though there is no contributing stream, the gully fills up when it rains, Sears said. Consequently, county and federal officials have said a 75-foot easement will be required on either side of the basin.

Development Authority Chairman Mike Sullivan added that the tile company is also looking at locations in Kentucky and Tennessee. He said both of those states are offering 80 buildable acres at no cost to the company.

"We're about $7 million in the hole before we start, so we've got to have 7 million reasons for them to build here," Sullivan said.

Sears said a metal fabrication manufacturer is also eyeing the site. This company, he said, is looking to bring 150 to 200 employees in its first phase of development and another 500 to 700 employees in phase 2. The company, which manufactures parts for the automotive industry, is prepared to make a $40 million investment, he said, including building a 350,000-square-foot facility.

Sears said several companies are also looking at the 377,000-square-foot building that was formerly the Southeast regional headquarters for John Deere.

One of those companies is a major supplier to Caterpillar.

"This is the halo effect of Caterpillar coming to Athens," Sears said, referring to a $200 million manufacturing facility that was recently constructed in Clarke County.

Another manufacturer is also interested in the John Deere facility. This company, which requested that details about its business remain anonymous, would bring more than 100 jobs to the area with a $20 million investment, Sears said. A manufacturer of solar panels, along with a biomass manufacturer has also expressed interest in the site.

Sears said the biomass manufacturer is also considering the building owned by Acuity Brands near Mamie's Kitchen on North Main Street. He said if the company locates there, it would be eligible for a $3,500 tax incentive for each employee since it is located in an Opportunity Zone.

Sears explained that the building is situated partially within the city of Conyers and partially in unincorporated Rockdale County. He said his office is working to develop an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the county so the company can take advantage of the Opportunity Zone tax credits.