There is no shortage of mathematicians in Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties, given our proximity to the University of Georgia.
We’ll ask their forgiveness for our math, but in the case of the new Caterpillar manufacturing plant planned on a 265-acre site on the border of our two counties, one plus one does not equal two. Our two counties, working together and with our friends at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, created an incentives package that’s much more than the sum of our parts.
It was only through collaboration and cooperation that Oconee and Athens-Clarke landed the state’s biggest economic development prize in more than five years. Combined with the unique quality of life in our region and some strategic assets established by the state — most notably our ports — one plus one might just equal three.
Or it might equal $200 million, which is the total investment the company is making. Or $57 million, which is the total estimated annual payroll. Or 1,400, which is the total number of jobs that will be created when the plant reaches full capacity.
Consider the additional jobs and impact of suppliers for the new facility and the numbers climb even higher. But there’s more than math in this equation.
The mix of jobs — 27 percent require a college degree, 23 percent require two years of technical training and 70 percent require a high school diploma — will accommodate a wide variety of unemployed and underemployed local residents.
Those who have lost jobs during the recession will have an opportunity to retool and retrain using Georgia’s QuickStart program at Athens Tech so they can pursue positions at Caterpillar.
Our communities did offer significant local incentives to lure the plant. Fortunately, our local governments are well managed and able to dedicate resources necessary to assist with the land acquisition and infrastructure building that’s required.
The incentives were an easy decision considering the transformational impact this facility will have on our communities.
These investments will benefit more than Caterpillar, which is just one part of a bigger story. Our four-county area — Oconee, Athens-Clarke, Jackson and Barrow — has announced more than $730 million in private investments with more than 3,100 planned jobs in just the past six months. These four counties have been working together for decades, including a joint venture on the Bear Creek Reservoir that helped us weather the droughts of recent summers.
So does one plus one equal two? Well, in one way it still does. Two counties collaborating will allow Caterpillar to move production of two leading-edge products — its small track-type tractors and mini-excavators — to Georgia.
The benefits will expand well past our two counties and continue to pay off for years to come. So no matter how you crunch the numbers, Caterpillar is not just good news for Athens-Clarke and Oconee, but good news for all of Georgia.
Nancy Denson is Athens-Clarke County mayor. Melvin Davis is Oconee County commission chairman.
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