The Development Authority of Bartow County (DABC) voted unanimously to approve a $37 million inducement resolution for “Project Gator” at a public meeting on Thursday morning.
“We are looking at a project coming into Bartow, it is a cold storage facility,” DABC legal counsel H. Boyd Pettit, III said. “If it comes to Bartow, it would be located on approximately 30 acres of property, it’s 135,000 square feet of cold storage, estimating 73 new jobs.”
That was about as detailed as Pettit’s description of the potential economic investment got. At the meeting, he did not publicize where the exact location of the development may be, nor formally name the company scouting Bartow as a potential site.
He did, however, say that such a project has been highly recruited by the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
“We are still in competition for this project," he said. "One of the items that the company needs before they can make an investment like the purchase of the property would be to have an inducement resolution.”
Essentially, Pettit said that resolution would simply indicate that the DABC would be willing to issue bonds to help the company finance the $30-million-plus capital project — which would include the costs of purchasing the property, building the facility and installing equipment at the site.
“If they select Bartow County as their final location,” he said, “then we would be back here needing a development authority meeting for a bond resolution.”
And such a meeting could be happening very shortly — Pettit said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the DABC board gathering for that very reason within the next six weeks.
Authority board members approved another inducement resolution Thursday morning — this one, offering up to $30 million in bonds for Vista Metals.
Following the completion of that phase of development, Pettit said the company now wants to put in an additional $30 million for this year.
Such marks the fourth time the DABC has approved a bond issuance for Vista Metals.
“This is a privately-owned company, a family-owned company,” Pettit said. “They see this community and see what opportunities are here for them, from a business perspective.”
Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor said he was somewhat surprised by the company’s request, considering the economic hit the airline industry has taken in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Yet Vista’s optimistic that they’re going to keep expanding,” he said. “I guess they see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe, but I know they’ve lost some business during this airline shutdown.”
Federal documents indicate Vista was approved for a $2 million to $5 million payment
under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on April 9.
Pettit said the authority will likely have to convene within the next 30 days to approve a bond resolution associated with the Vista Metals expansion project.
“All of these investments are being made by the individual companies, there are no guarantees from the County,” Pettit said. “The County is putting no investment in connection with these, there’s no backing of any of these bonds — these are all private bonds.”
From there, the authority approved two formal bond resolutions, including a $14 million issuance for Vista Metals and an affiliate company, AL8, LLC.
Pettit said bond funding would go towards the construction of a new building behind the existing Vista Metals facility in Adairsville. The deal, Pettit said, has been in the works for about one year.
“Vista continues to be a great corporate citizen and a part of our community and they like doing business here,” he said. “They recruited one of their partners to come in and put equipment in this new building, so Vista will own the building and Nippon Light Metal will put in the equipment.”
Speaking of Nippon, the authority likewise signed off on a bond resolution for that company, approving the issuance of up to $46 million for the Japanese manufacturer's 87,000-square-foot north Bartow project
“We’re looking, of course, at additional employment, we’re looking at additional investment in the community,” Pettit said. “We’re very excited about this project.”
Taylor said the company’s investment in the local community represents a good omen for Bartow’s post-COVID economy.
“This project, Nippon Light Metal, was brought to us by one of the owners, or family members, from Vista,” he said, “and it’s because of the costs of doing business and the way we do business in Georgia vs. California … we’ve got a lot of good stuff going on in Bartow County, and there’s more to come.”
The authority also approved an amendment for Vista Metals and another affiliate company, AL7, LLC.
“They have renegotiated, I guess is the best way of putting it, their letter of credit, which saves them some money,” Pettit said. “They had a higher letter of credit which they have to provide as a guarantee on the bonds with the banks, it has nothing to do with the authority … they’ve done an amendment to reduce the amount of that letter of credit in cooperation with the bank, and they asked us to sign off on that amendment.”
The amendment, Pettit said, drops the letter of credit amount from $60 million to about $39 million.
“Which is the balance of one of their mortgages in connection with their project out there,” he said.
Pettit also gave authority members a quick update on the status of two grants, starting with the Loloi project on Cass-White Road, which was approved for $250,000 in funding via the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) program.
“We have now successfully completed reimbursement to them of $231,000 of that grant,” he said. “We are filing the final paperwork in the next few days.”
He also briefly touched upon a OneGeorgia Authority EDGE Fund grant for Chick-fil-A Supply, LLC.
“They are continuing the paperwork in connection with that,” Pettit said. “That grant’s already been approved, the funding in connection with that grant for the reimbursement back to Chick-fil-A will be coming through shortly.”