New companies looking at Grady County

New Grady County Joint Development Authority Executive Director Brian Marlowe has hit the ground running and on Tuesday, he briefed the authority members for the first time on his progress in negotiations with three new prospects.
Marlowe, coming out of the state’s economic development department, has given each project clever code names to protect the confidentiality of the prospects.
Topping the list is “Project Lift,” which would be a new manufacturing company that has verbally committed to a lease on the former Park Model Manufacturing facility in Milestone Industrial Park starting May 1.
This is a prospect that Marlowe’s predecessor, Rick McCaskill, had been working with for an extended period.
“We are just waiting on them to return the signed lease agreement. They have verbally committed to the lease and plan on taking occupancy May 1,” Marlowe said Tuesday.
The new industrial park tenant will employ 15 initially, and could grow to as many as 35 to 40 when the economy improves, according to Marlowe. He added that the company will invest approximately $750,000 to $1 million in its operations here.
The new JDA executive is also confident in wrapping up an agreement with a prospect he is identifying as “Project Wilderness.”
This would be a retailing and distributing company that would employee as many as 40 in the first six to eight months of operations, but not much more than that in the future, according to Marlowe. The total investment locally would be approximately $3 to $5 million and the prospect would be a large generator of sales taxes the authority members were told.
This prospect’s operations would be housed in two buildings totaling close to 100,000 square feet.
The third prospect Marlowe is dealing with is in the very early stages of negotiations. “Project Snow” is a distribution operation that would employ approximately 50 workers and as many as 200 in the long term.
“We are in the early stages on this project, but I will be talking with company officials sometime this week,” Marlowe said in his briefing Tuesday.
Authority member Chuck Thomas asked if the new firm could utilize a section of the Heritage Industrial Complex if they needed to begin operations sooner than another building was made available.
Marlowe agreed that would be a reasonable option, but Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton reminded the members of the authority he would need a “heads up” if any of the space the city is currently leasing as storage for the public works department would be infringed on.
“It just doesn’t make sense in these economic times for the city to spend $40 per square foot for what is costing them $10 per square foot. I’d like for us to find the space that works for you and work out a preferred deal for the city. It helps the city and it helps us,” Thomas said.
Addleton agreed and noted that he had not been able to justify the need for constructing a new building at this time, and that he would be interested in meeting with the authority to look at all the options available at the former Roddenbery pickle plant.
In other business Tuesday, the authority:
•Heard an update on a $99,900 grant awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture for revitalization of the Heritage Industrial Complex. Marlowe has been in contact with USDA officials and all that is required for the release of funds is a van accessible handicapped designated parking space at the facility. City Manager Addleton committed city crews to assist in preparing the handicapped accessible parking space. The JDA executive director said he would forward photos of the designated parking, but that USDA may wish to physically inspect, but at that time the funds would be released.
•Instructed Marlowe to coordinate a meeting between officials with Lining Innovations, Higdon Furniture Company and former JDA executive Rick McCaskill to work out a disagreement over rent and a payment in lieu of ad valorem taxes. Lining Innovations has submitted a $35,000 bill for the lease of floor space used to store furniture owned by Higdon Furniture, which previously occupied the manufacturing facility. The bill was received after the JDA issued a bill to Lining Innovations for a $20,000 payment in lieu of ad valorem taxes. “We’re not going to get this settled until we can have a meeting with everyone around the table,” JDA member Chuck Thomas said.
•Learned that L&L Business Partners now owe lease payments for January, February and March. After discussing the matter the authority requested Thomas contact the owners to get a payment to stay within 90 days past due. Chairman Stafford noted, “no one is knocking on the door to take their place.”

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