Two distribution companies and a manufacturer are discussing moving to Fort Gillem, potentially fueling thousands of new jobs, the head of the redevelopment authority for the sprawling south Atlanta property said Friday.
The three companies haven't committed to making the move, said Fred Bryant, the executive director of the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Local Redevelopment Authority. But if they do they could bring a combined 1,500 to 2,000 jobs to the Clayton County installation and be in place next year, he said. Bryant declined to name the three companies.
“Often, projects like this don’t come to the southside of Atlanta," Bryant said. "This will send the right signal for the city [Forest Park], the county and the southside.”
Two of the companies have also scouted out other locations, but Bryant said he’s confident a deal is near.
“We believe they are very interested because we’ve had some preliminary meetings and discussions and they’re still coming back,” he said. “That tells us if we’re not the primary site, we’re in the top one or two.”
The fate of Fort Gillem, which spreads over 1,427 acres, has been an open question since the Pentagon ordered it to be closed in 2005. Bryant said he’s been working for more than six years to transform the Army site into a mixed-use project offering new jobs, and he’s marketing the site’s proximity to major rail lines, Atlanta’s airport and other key infrastructure.
The three companies could bring an investment between $350 million to $500 million, said Bryant. He said officials are close to signing a non-binding letter of intent with the two distribution companies, but the manufacturer has a longer vetting process. Each would bring between 500 to 1,000 jobs, he said.
Forest Park officials and a military spokesperson didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment.
The Army is giving up most of the massive facility as part of the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure program. Forest Park is hoping to finalize the purchase of much of the property from the military by September. The rest could be transferred next year.
Bryant said most of the dozens of the buildings on the property were built in the 1940s and would need to be razed, but several of them are reusable.
“This is going to be a tremendous opportunity to turn the city of Forest Park and Clayton County and south metro Atlanta around,” he said.