Rays of economic hope top the business stories of 2012
by Matt Shinall
Dec 30, 2012 | 2134 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State and local officials join Cartersville Medical Center representatives for a groundbreaking ceremony for a $30 million expansion and renovation project. MATT SHINALL/The Daily Tribune News, File
State and local officials join Cartersville Medical Center representatives for a groundbreaking ceremony for a $30 million expansion and renovation project. MATT SHINALL/The Daily Tribune News, File
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Several large groundbreakings and project announcements round out the top business stories of 2012 for Bartow County, but as signs of a recovery emerge, business closures polarize the year-end retrospective.

Hope of a positive impact from area developments made an impressive advancement in 2012 with the first land sales taking place within LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center and Highland 75 industrial park. Dirt is moving on projects to bring more jobs from Cartersville Medical Center to stamped-metal parts supplier voestalpine, taking top spot on the list.

Groundbreakings

Three major groundbreaking projects took place in the fall of 2012 beginning with CMC in October and wrapping up with LakePoint and voestalpine in November.

CMC announced plans for a $30 million expansion project in January. The ceremonial gold shovels struck dirt in October on the project to add a patient floor, convert all semi-private patient rooms to private rooms, double the size of the existing emergency department and revitalize the hospital’s external facade.

On Nov. 1, Gov. Nathan Deal, sports legends, business executives and local leaders gathered in Emerson for the official groundbreaking of LakePoint Sports. Announcements made at the event included Coca-Cola’s partnership as sole beverage provider with plans to construct the company’s first sports medicine and hydration lab on the 1,200-acre campus. Also adding to the sports medicine offerings at LakePoint will be the Dr. James Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

With first pitch slated for 2014, LakePoint is expected to draw some 4 million visitors every year to the complex’s 16 major-league sized baseball fields, five multi-purpose fields for lacrosse and soccer, and a 100,000-square-foot indoor facility for volleyball, basketball, cheerleading and wrestling.

While premiere travel-league youth sports will be the park’s main feature, the campus is designed so that visitors will never have to leave for food, lodging or entertainment. Current plans show 14 movie screens, 16 restaurants, five hotels, a water park, a par-three golf course, zip lines, various attractions and a 300-acre nature park.

“I was traveling in baseball with my sons and thought, ‘There has to be a better way,’” said LakePoint partner Earl Erhart. “We started talking about this idea for a complex where kids could come and stay and play and showcase their skills — and from that, LakePoint began.

“This isn’t a build-it-and-they’ll-come proposition. This is a business model that says, not ‘we wish, we hope, we think.’ We know that the Perfect Game company plays 88,000 plus boys all over this country and they have millions of athletes playing in these tournaments. We have long-term leases with these companies. We have great associations with some of the top sports companies in the country.”

At completion, the park is expected to employ 2,500 people, but upon full buildout, LakePoint is estimated to support upwards of 25,000 jobs.

Lastly, on Nov. 14, voestalpine broke ground on a manufacturing facility in Bartow County to produce stamped-metal products for the automotive industry.

The Austrian-based conglomerate is comprised of more than 500 companies in more than 50 countries employing more than 50,000 people around the world. The Bartow County facility will represent a $62 million investment creating 220 jobs with the possibility of attracting more companies to Highland 75.

Voestalpine is the first to build in Highland 75, the 707-acre publicly owned industrial park on Cass-White Road.

Project announcements

While three major projects broke ground in 2012, three more made their preliminary announcements this year with plans to begin construction soon.

The first to do so was Eco-Energy Holdings in April with plans to build and operate an ethanol unit trail terminal in the Cartersville West Industrial Park.

The rail-to-truck transfer station will have the capability of storing up to 200,000 barrels, or 8.4 million gallons, of ethanol.

Job estimates have yet to be released, but during an April interview with The Daily Tribune News, Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development Executive Director Melinda Lemmon expressed excitement about adding alternative energy providers to the mix of industry found within Bartow County.

In September, Georgia Power announced a $700 million investment to Plant Bowen for additional environmental controls.

Construction is set to begin in spring 2013 on a mercury control unit known as a baghouse. A baghouse is a facility containing fabric filters, or bags, through which flue gas is filtered to trap unburned carbon in the flyash.

It is unknown whether this project will create any permanent jobs, but Plant Bowen’s last major environmental construction project created more than 1,000 temporary construction jobs.

One of this year’s biggest stories was an announcement made just days ago with the news of Bass Pro Shops coming to LakePoint. The announcement was made Friday, Dec. 21, after Bass Pro Shops closed on the land while the agreement was solidified Thursday, Dec. 27, by approval of the Bartow County Development Authority.

The national outdoor-sports retailer will construct a 100,000-square-foot facility on the south end of the LakePoint campus behind Love’s truck stop in Emerson. The store will represent a $22 million investment and create the equivalent of 200 full-time jobs, with about half of those consisting of full-time employees.

Bass Pro Shops is slated to open in 2014 and the company has reserved the right to add another 20,000-square-foot facility to house a restaurant and bowling alley.

Business closures

While business closures have not met the size and scope of projects beginning in 2012, job losses felt this year have taken an immediate effect.

The largest closure notice was made in October with the Cartersville K-Mart set to close in January 2013. The retailer at 435 E. Main St. employs 74 associates, most of which are part time.

A Sears Holding spokesperson stated in an October interview with The Daily Tribune News that “a business decision” was made not to renew the lease, which ends in January.

Other closure announcements made in 2012 were on a smaller scale. The largest industry falling to economic pressure in 2012 was Cartersville’s food-service industry.

The year began with the loss of downtown eatery Greg’s Tavern and Ryan’s Steakhouse in January followed by Ruby Tuesday and Wall Street Cafe. The last to go was The Sweet Spot, one of Cartersville’s original trio of frozen yogurt shops opening earlier this year.

The restaurant scene is improving, however, with Greg’s Tavern being replaced this year by E Street Tavern and a hibachi grill opening soon in the Ryan’s location while ATE Track Bar and Grill, sister restaurant of Appalachian Grill, opened in the former home of Wall Street Cafe earlier this month.

Other projects include a new Dunkin’ Donuts on Gentilly Boulevard, Steak N’ Shake being built on Main Street in front of Kohl’s and Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits coming to the old Blockbuster location.

Anniversaries

Bartow County businesses also celebrated this year with major milestones at two organizations with local ties.

In March, Georgia Farm Bureau celebrated 75 years. The statewide agricultural membership organization with offices in nearly every county of the state, began in Bartow in 1937.

In Adairsville, the Japanese-based company Yanmar, marked its 100th birthday with events around the world, including the Bartow County facility.

Employer committee award

For members of the Bartow County Employer Committee, 2012 will be remembered for the organization’s recognition at the state awards ceremony.

With only six organizations recognized, the Bartow County Employer Committee was among a select group of employer committees from across the state awarded for their hard work and dedication.

The local group of business leaders, human resource professionals and representatives from the Georgia Department of Labor took second place in the state awards, but the decision for first was so close, the award committee created a recognition level for the Bartow group.

Since the award’s inception, only one organization is awarded while all other finalists are recognized for their efforts. This year, the competition was too close to call and a runner-up award was created for the Bartow County Employer Committee.