Belgian firm bringing jobs to Dalton

“Stella” is coming to north Georgia and bringing some good news with her.

“Stella,” the code name for an undisclosed manufacturer, promises 150-plus jobs to the recession-battered city of Dalton. City officials will announce their development coup Monday.

“We have been blessed the last 35, 40 years with a workhorse I call the carpet industry,” Mike Babb, who chairs the Whitfield County commission, said Thursday. “But it’s a maturing industry. So this is a ray of hope [to] get a new company to come to our community.”

Neither Babb nor other Dalton officials would name the company or discuss total investment, citing confidentiality agreements. Yet the commissioner and others confirmed that a Belgian company will announce its first U.S. plant Monday.

The company makes “flooring-related” products whose production uses “a lot of chemicals,” Babb said.

Roughly 85 employees will be hired at first, rising to 150 full-time jobs within two years.

The company is not a supplier for the Volkswagen plant under construction in nearby Chattanooga, Tenn., said county spokesman Mitch Talley. Virtually every north Georgia community is offering land, job training and financial incentives to lure suppliers affiliated with VW.

Dalton and Whitfield County rushed the purchase and preparation of a 44-acre industrial site, all to be used by the Belgians. The county spent $1.3 million on the land, a few miles from Interstate 75, and another $1.6 million readying it. The state of Georgia will also kick in incentive money.

“Stella,” Talley said, “is in a hurry to get construction started.”

And Dalton aches for new jobs. Yarn-making mills, carpet and flooring factories have shuttered with unfortunate rapidity the last few years across northwest Georgia. Dalton’s unemployment rate, 13.3 percent in July, ranks among the state’s highest.

“Compared to all the jobs we lost, this may not look like much,” Babb said. “But this is a positive sign for the future.”