Georgia takes control of new megasite to pitch to manufacturers

Site in Peach County to target electric vehicle and other sectors.

The state of Georgia and a Peach County agency announced Thursday the purchase of more than 1,100 acres southwest of Macon for a manufacturing megasite, property that leaders said could suit the electric vehicle industry.

The Middle Georgia Megasite gives the state a large new shovel-ready tract of land with direct rail access to pitch to heavy industry. Georgia has been lacking in ready-build property of more than 1,000 acres that it controls, after landing two of its biggest economic development projects in state history.

In December, EV maker Rivian announced a $5 billion factory along I-20 about an hour east of Atlanta. Last month, Hyundai Motor Group confirmed plans to build a $5.54 billion EV factory in Bryan County near Savannah.

“Even after announcing the two largest projects in the State’s history back-to-back, we remain focused on attracting key industries and investment by providing the project sites companies need,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a news release. “It is very encouraging to see a new, fully prepared megasite that will create more high-quality jobs for hardworking Georgians in rural parts of the state.”

The land, located near the city of Fort Valley along Ga. 96 west of I-75, is about a three-hour or so drive from the Savannah and Brunswick ports, about a half-hour from Macon and two hours from Atlanta.

The Peach County site has been in the works for some time and quietly marketed to industry. On Wednesday, the state and Development Authority of Peach County acquired four parcels for about $18.6 million, authority Executive Director B.J. Walker told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Combined ShapeCaption
The land in yellow is the state's new Middle Georgia Megasite in Peach County near Fort Valley. The 1,100-acre property is being pitched for the electric vehicle sector and other manufacturers. SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: SPECIAL TO THE AJC

The land in yellow is the state's new Middle Georgia Megasite in Peach County near Fort Valley. The 1,100-acre property is being pitched for the electric vehicle sector and other manufacturers. SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
The land in yellow is the state's new Middle Georgia Megasite in Peach County near Fort Valley. The 1,100-acre property is being pitched for the electric vehicle sector and other manufacturers. SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: SPECIAL TO THE AJC

The sellers include Southern Orchards, land controlled by an LLC of Pearson Farms and local farmer Malcolm Giles.

Funds to purchase the site came from the 2021 sale of land at the former Pooler megasite, near Savannah, to Amazon, the state said.

Walker said the development authority launched a new webpage for the megasite on Thursday. An EV or battery plant would be the top targets, though other industries are possible, he said.

“This isn’t a site you could bust up. It’s for one user,” he said. It also could be expanded.

“We’ve had interest, but I don’t want to talk about what they are,” Walker said. “If you look at it holistically, we’re really just starting on this EV cycle.”

Electric vehicles are only a sliver of all vehicles sold in the U.S. But the share of EVs sold in the U.S. is expected to increase exponentially amid tightening emissions and fuel economy standards, and as the cost of electric vehicles becomes competitive with conventional gas-powered models.

But there are headwinds. Sourcing battery components has been a challenge, and the cost of EV investments is substantial.

Still, Georgia officials have positioned the state to be a player in the electrified future of the industry.

Rivian, an upstart, plans to hire 7,500 people at a factory between Social Circle and Rutledge where it has said it will start production in 2025. Hyundai has said its electric vehicle assembly and battery plant near Savannah eventually could employ about 8,100 workers.

SK Battery America, meanwhile, is developing a sprawling battery complex in Jackson County.

“Georgia has done an excellent job recruiting the industry,” Walker said.

Peach County is already home to a major vehicle manufacturer. Blue Bird makes conventional, liquified natural gas- and electric-powered school buses at a nearby plant that employs 1,800.

Walker said engineering firm Thomas & Hutton has guided the project through environmental reviews and to prepare for infrastructure and utility work.

Pat Wilson, the state’s top recruiter, called the new megasite “an excellent example of investing in the future.”

“Right now, we’re seeing that speed to market is a driving factor for companies, and preparing sites of this scale to meet companies’ timelines keeps Georgia competitive,” he said.