Despite double digit unemployment rates, Bartow County made headlines with announcements of growth highlighted in 2011 with Toyo Tire's expansion plans winning state recognition as Deal of the Year. Other investments, including upgrades at the Anheuser-Busch Cartersville brewery and the sprawling LakePoint sports complex, lead officials to believe a recovery is in the works for Bartow County.
Executive Director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development Melinda Lemmon shared optimistic thoughts on the future of Bartow County industry and insight on the year ahead.
* A challenging economic climate may actually work in Bartow's favor in the long run. With competitive advantages over other locations, Lemmon advises keeping an eye out for strategic acquisitions and consolidations benefiting the area's existing industry.
"The opportunities for buyouts and even consolidations of multiple locations within a company, I think, will fare well for our Bartow locations," Lemmon said. "Our tax structure remains low, our cost of doing business remains low and our job tax credits are increasing. There are a lot of competitive reasons for companies to do business here."
* The year's first major project to be completed will be Georgia Highlands College's new student center. Rising quickly above the Cartersville campus on Ga. Highway 20, the 55,000-square-foot facility, costing $20 million, will house a gym, student lounges, a cafe and a bookstore among other amenities.
"One of the first things that I'm excited to see is the completion of the student center at Georgia Highlands College. The Joint Development Authority issued bonds for that last year and it's been really fun seeing the building coming up so quickly. Anytime you see cranes coming up, that's a good time for me," Lemmon said. "We have not had too many new construction projects around the community this last year, so that will be exciting to see coming to completion early this year."
* Although original plans had the LakePoint Sporting Community and Town Center opening this year, new projections have pinned a first pitch in the spring of 2013. Lemmon expects dirt to start being moved soon on the 1,400-acre sports complex proposed for Emerson between Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 41.
"I really look forward to seeing some construction progress at LakePoint. This is going to be a very busy year regarding earth moving and those initial construction jobs," Lemmon said. "This is going to be one of those projects to watch -- largest since the Kia project in terms of volume of earth that's being moved.
"The grading contractor should be named soon, if it hasn't already, and that construction company will need every bit of the time allotted in the contract."
* Last on the list for 2012 is again the prospect of finding Highland 75's first resident. The 700-acre, master-planned industrial park has been under development for several years with the finishing touches completed in 2011. Certifications for efficient and rapid development have been completed and prospective clients have come calling, but so far, no buyers have made their way to the enterprise overseen by the Cartersville-Bartow County Joint Development Authority.
"I am hopeful we'll see our first employer in Highland 75. That continues to be something we work toward and it's definitely still on our list," Lemmon said. "We've worked hard to get that property ready to go, and I hope 2012 is a promising year in that regard."