‘Team’ effort helps Newton County attract major industries


COVINGTON, Georgia. – Newton County must be prepared to meet the needs of any industrial prospect if it wants that employer to move here.

Two of the most key players in any Newton County recruiting effort say that the successful “team” approach among industrial recruiters, city, county and state governments, utilities and others has played a role. major role in attracting new industries.

The Atlanta-Journal Constitution recently reported that electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive was in “advanced negotiations” to build a manufacturing facility at a large site near I-20 in the Stanton Springs area near Social Circle. .

Its investors include Amazon and Ford. Rivian is also considering a site in Texas for the plant.

Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Newton County Water & Sewerage Authority (NCWSA), said recruiting industries is “a team effort” and Newton County “has a great team and everyone seems to be working together. “.

NCWSA officials rely on regional and state economic development agencies to speak to other entities involved in a major project, he said.

“We are not an engine of growth,” Hopkins said. “The county has to decide if they want things to happen, so it’s important that (Newton County IDA) make sure they talk to the cities and the county and they’ve been successful in doing that, in my opinion.

“For a county our size and a (water and sewer) system our size, I think it’s pretty amazing to have what we have,” he said.

Serra Hall, executive director of the Newton County Industrial Development Authority (IDA), said she was “in frequent communication” with local utilities and other basic service providers about what they have as well as what they need. new infrastructure and upgrade plans “and even areas that are not available.

“It’s important to have an understanding and I’m grateful for the teams working to make sure we communicate effectively together,” she said.

“It is an essential part of the job of our office to have excellent relationships with our utility partners, whether they are members, private or municipal,” said Hall.

She said Newton County and IDA’s regional partners “have enormous strengths in public services.”

“We have been blessed by hard working people who are leaders in their respective fields,” said Hall.

The Stanton Springs area includes the long established Stanton Springs Business Park and the new Stanton Springs North Park. The Joint Development Authority (JDA) of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties has developed and maintained them.

Stanton Springs is already home to Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Facebook Newton Data Center and Georgia’s BioScience Training Center with a new project identified as Baymare also planning to locate there.

The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) recently provided a $ 25 million Georgia Fund loan to NCWSA for the construction of a new water main, water storage tank, and facility upgrades. of the Authority’s water recovery system. The project is planned to meet future industrial and commercial demands in Stanton Springs.

Hopkins said cultivating good relationships with governments in the region is critical to the NCWSA’s ability to serve new industries.

For example, the NCWSA has been “really lucky” to have worked well with the Newton County government and the Joint Development Authority on projects such as the Stanton Springs service, he said.

He said the utility had also worked through IDA and Georgia’s Ministry of Economic Development to meet the needs of past projects, such as when the company that is now Takeda first considered s ‘settle in Stanton Springs.

Economic development agencies typically seek details of how much water and sewer capacity the NCWSA can provide in a certain area, Hopkins said.

“If you don’t have the capacity or the flow, you can’t tell somebody you can get it here when you can’t, when you don’t have the right infrastructure,” a- he declared.

NCWSA officials know “what our infrastructure can and cannot do,” Hopkins said.

“We know what’s in our capital improvement program and we check these ‘checkboxes’ that we check internally, just making sure we can deliver what is requested,” he said. declared.

“Often the more you deepen the negotiations, the more you discover truer numbers,” he said. “Everyone up front is asking a lot, or not sure how much to ask for.”

The NCWSA generally doesn’t like approving projects whose costs would require increased rates on existing customers, Hopkins said.

“Could there be something that comes up that we’re really struggling with?” My board knows we would not be working in this direction, ”he said.

“But if we could do it for the benefit of the community, our board is ready for us to do whatever we can to make it happen,” Hopkins said.

Stanton Springs North is partially within the city limits of Social Circle, which has several ongoing projects such as sidewalk improvements and infrastructure upgrades, according to The Covington News’ sister publication The Walton Tribune.

The city council is currently developing a park use policy for city parks. City officials from Social Circle also conducted public inquiries and brought in a housing consultant last spring to determine how to avoid urban sprawl while still allowing growth, the Tribune reported.

In early November, Social Circle signed an amended service delivery strategy agreement with the JDA for Stanton Springs and Stanton Springs North.

This allows the authority to select services now and in the future to include EMS, code enforcement, building inspections, economic development, policing and fire protection, planning and zoning. , natural gas, wastewater collection and treatment, and water supply and distribution, the Tribune reported

Hopkins said new industries opening up in Newton County pay taxes that equalize the tax base and ease some of the burden of funding basic services to individual owners.

“I hope this improves the county’s economy and just doesn’t add more housing like we were in the early 2000s when everything was residential,” Hopkins said. “It’s more balanced now and it helps us all. “


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