Three prospects have eye on former Higdon plant

Three different prospects have shown interest in the now vacant, former Higdon Furniture Company facility on Wight Road, according to Grady County Joint Development Authority Executive Director Brian Marlowe.
“For a while there we didn’t have any interest and now, all of sudden, we have three different prospects who have expressed interest. We are moving in the right direction,” Marlowe said.
In addition, the JDA executive has been in talks with Robert Bearden, owner and operator of a major trucking firm  here, about the possibility of a national company utilizing the former Higdon facility as a warehouse and distribution center.
Marlowe said not as many jobs would be created with this use, but given the currently sour economy, he recommended the authority consider such a tenant.
JDA Chairman Charles M. Stafford also noted that the authority would set the purchase or lease/purchase price sufficient to recoup the $3,700 the city and county have been appropriating monthly to assist the authority in meeting the debt service on the Higdon facility.
“As we’ve said all along, we consider the assistance from the city and county a loan, and we intend to pay it back as soon as a viable tenant can be identified,” Marlowe said.
The JDA executive director also briefed members of the authority regarding ongoing negotiations with economic prospects.
According to Marlowe, he and Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton met last week with executives of Project Excel, which is a company looking to invest approximately $150 million and create about 400 jobs. Cairo and Grady County are on a short list of communities the company is considering as sites for expansion.
Last Monday, Addleton and Marlowe joined company officials on a tour of a prospective site for the new company’s operations and also took a helicopter flight over the area.
“I thought last week’s meeting would be the last community visit, but the company executives have indicated they want to come back in early December. I take that as a positive sign,” Marlowe said.
The JDA chief also briefed authority members on his negotiations with a project code named Project Green.
According to Marlowe, this is an alternative energy project that would be a $2 million investment and would create about 10 jobs initially.
“This project is not a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when’,” Marlowe said. He is currently working to schedule an appointment with bond attorneys to discuss the project.
During the monthly meeting Tuesday, Chairman Stafford and local accountant William Jones reviewed the monthly financial statements.
According to Chairman Stafford, without the deficit created by the Higdon project the authority would be in a positive cash flow position.
However, he noted that in spite of the problems associated with the Higdon project, the authority has been successful in obtaining state grants to create a local revolving loan fund just over $1 million.
Local businesses have tapped into the revolving loan fund to the tune of $771,432.91 to date, and most of those loans are at three percent interest. The principal and interest payments go back into the revolving loan fund to aid other businesses, according to the chairman.
The fund currently has $336,093.54 that is available to be reinvested into different projects.
“You often hear that the authority is costing the community money, but we’ve been successful in obtaining a little over a million in grants that we have used to reinvest in the community,” Chairman Stafford said.

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