Marlowe has prospect interested in Higdon facility

A new manufacturing prospect appears to be interested in relocating to the former Higdon Furniture Company facility on Wight Road, so much so that Grady County Joint Development Authority Executive Director Brian Marlowe has met with company officials four times in the last several weeks.
Marlowe briefed members of the authority, as well as local bankers and members of the Cairo City Council and the Grady County Board of Commissioners, during the authority’s regular monthly meeting, which was held Tuesday at the Higdon plant.
Code named Project Vila, Marlowe says the prospect would create approximately 100 jobs and would invest about $1 million in the project.
“I should know something within four months from now,” Marlowe said.
The JDA director is continuing his negotiations with the prospect, but no final offers have been made.
Tuesday morning, the authority met behind closed doors to discuss the ongoing litigation against Joe Higdon as the guarantor of the lease on the now-vacant plant on Wight Road.
The authority has gone to court to seek collection of unpaid rent and annual payments in lieu of taxes from Higdon.
Approximately $1.6 million is owed on the plant, which originally cost $2.3 million to construct and is conservatively valued at nearly $5 million when the 28-acre site is included.
Both the city and county have been paying $3,700 per month to assist the JDA in covering the debt service on the plant.
On Tuesday, the group also discussed a proposed plan for the county to use cash reserves to pay down the debt on the Higdon facility. The commission previously made an offer to pay down half of the debt if the city paid the other half. Mayor Richard VanLandingham said the city would continue to fund the $3,700 monthly payment as long as needed, but had other projects that take priority over the Higdon debt, which would tie up the city’s cash.
County Administrator Rusty Moye said the county’s offer had been made to prevent the authority from having to sell or lease the former Higdon plant at a price below market value.
“You don’t want to let it go for nothing,” Moye said.
Chairman Al Ball said the full commission would discuss the possibility of an agreement that would include the county paying down on the plant debt.
Following the regularly monthly business meeting, the members of the authority, as well as Charles Davis of Capital City Bank, Mike Chastain of United National Bank, Commission Chairman Al Ball, Commission Vice Chairman Charles Renaud, Commissioner Elwyn Childs, Commissioner Charles Norton, County Administrator Rusty Moye, Mayor Richard VanLandingham, Councilman Ernest Cloud and City Manager Chris Addleton toured the Higdon facility.
In other business Tuesday, the authority members:
Heard an update on a number of confidential prospects. Project CAT is a manufacturing prospect that would create about 30 jobs. However, Marlowe says he does not expect a decision within the next 18 to 24 months. Project GREEN is a green technology prospect that has plans to locate its operations at the Heritage Industrial Complex. The principals of the new venture are in the process of obtaining financing and concluding negotiations with the JDA. Project BLUE is a manufacturer that would create about 40 jobs in the first year and up to 200 by year three.
Discussed Project GFA, which is local contracting firm GFA Design/Build Contractors, LLC, owned by Zane and Randall Mirick. The Miricks are seeking a tract of land in Milestone Industrial Park to locate their new business, which is currently based in the Bass Law Firm building on North Broad Street.  Authority members discussed the prospect and decided that to make available land to the firm at $25,000 per acre. JDA Executive Director and authority member Chuck Thomas were instructed to identify how much buildable land is available for use by GFA.
Heard a reminder from Marlowe about the joint leadership meeting planned for next Thursday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Grady Cultural Center.

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