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Metal fabrication industry expanding

COVINGTON -- Metal fabricator Cutting Edge Laser Machining Inc. is growing its Covington operation, moving into a larger facility, adding jobs and investing up to $2 million in the expansion.

Cutting Edge Laser will move from its current location in a rental facility on Hazelbrand Road into an existing building at 8170 Bob Williams Parkway that it will expand by 10,000 square feet.

The renovation and construction cost alone will total $750,000. The move will allow the business to add more machinery necessary to grow its customer base, and capital equipment investment is expected to total more than $600,000. Total investment will be between $1.7 million and $2 million, according to Vice President Richard Davis.

Cutting Edge recently added two employees, bringing total employment to 19 and "our hope is to add another five within the next year," Davis said.

Among its variety of products -- "We make anything anybody wants out of metal," Davis said -- are mobile GPS devices used to track police, fire and other public safety vehicles, payment machines used in parking lots and products used in the food packaging industry. Acuity Brands of Conyers is one of the company's biggest customers.

Construction has begun and the new facility is expected to open in late September. Cutting Edge Laser is contracting with local contractors for the expansion, such as Amada America Inc. in Covington and Southern Steel and Contracting of Rutledge, Davis said.

Jasper County offered an attractive incentive package, but Davis said the additional commute time was cost prohibitive.

"Even with those (incentives), it wasn't what we wanted to do. We've always been here in Newton County. A lot of our folks live here. Their commute would have been longer. We wanted to stay in Newton County if possible," Davis said.

Davis said he hopes to form a partnership with nearby Georgia Piedmont Technical College for training of staff and to identify good employees to hire in the future.

Cutting Edge Laser Machining is the first industry to take advantage of a new economic development incentive package offered by the city of Covington.

It is receiving an incentive package worth more than $60,000, including: 20 percent reduction on electric rates for two years and 10 percent reduction for a third year, a total discount of $22,447; replacing an existing transformer with a new transformer at a cost of between $10,000 and $11,000; installing a new transformer when needed at a cost of up to $10,000; installing a new transformer and new primary cable at an approximate cost to the city of $15,000; if desired, providing and installing new security lights; waiving of permit fees totaling $4,205; and 20 percent reduction on stormwater fees for two years.

"The benefactor is the community as a whole with added jobs, investments made, taxes paid, etc. that will take place within the community," Mayor Ronnie Johnston previously said. "In the short run there is some loss with the incentives provided, but the utility incentives losses are expected to be recouped over time. It really is a tradeoff wherein you forego some short term losses in exchange for the long term benefits that new and expanding businesses will bring to the community."