State purchase of large industrial plot could help recruit business

The state has a deal in place to buy property in southeast Georgia for what leaders hope will be a giant industrial development.

Georgia has partnered with a group of four local development authorities near Savannah to reach an agreement to purchase 2,284 acres on Interstate 16. According to state officials, the Bryan County property is the largest remaining undeveloped site in Georgia with direct interstate-highway and railroad access that’s also within a 30-minute drive of the Port of Savannah.

The state has not disclosed a purchase price, but it said the deal should close by July 31. Georgia is using proceeds from the recent sale of an industrial site in Chatham County to Amazon to help pay for it. Three private landowners are selling the property.

Gov. Brian Kemp is scheduled to lead a tour of the megasite Friday with unidentified participants. Representatives from Kemp’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It makes sense for the state and local development authorities to buy the property because it will keep the land out of the hands of private investors, said John Gornall, an economic-development attorney at Arnall Golden Gregory. The state’s ownership will make it easier to recruit a new business.

“Private developers have investors who expect to earn a profit,” said Gornall, who’s not involved in the deal. “The state wants to create new jobs and doesn’t need to turn a profit.”

The Bryan County megasite is large enough to compete for a factory planned by Ford and SK Battery America to make batteries for electric vehicles. Dong Seob Jee, head of the battery business at South Korean company SK Innovation, said last week that Georgia is one of the finalist states for the project.

The Bryan County property is about 20 miles west of another megasite in Pooler where the Amazon distribution center will be located. Mitsubishi opened a facility at the Pooler site, but some of the property remains undeveloped.