From the notebook of business editor Tim Rausch

A job claimed is not always a job earned

Last week I, got a voice mail from a reader who was curious about why the “vitamin plant” in Augusta has never opened.

What the caller was referring to is the 400,000-square-foot production facility that New York vitamin company NBTY Inc. said it would open near Augusta Regional Airport.

Two years after the announcement, the building off Tobacco Road that the company paid nearly $11 million for still sits unused.

Local economic development officials in contact with the company said late last year that the facility could be open by this spring.

Cross your fingers; there are still four weeks left.

PHANTOM JOBS: The NBTY development brings up an interesting topic of discussion: taking credit for creating jobs that do not exist.

For example, the Development Authority of Richmond County, the city’s chief industrial recruiter, says that 1,600 jobs were created during its banner year of 2005. Five hundred of those jobs, however, were attributed to NBTY – which has yet to create a single position in Augusta – and an additional 250 were attributed to the foundering Village at Riverwatch retail project, henceforth known as the Scar of the Savannah.
Assuming all the other announcements made during 2005 actually panned out, the figure would be closer to 850.

Declaring early victories on economic development projects is not unique to Augusta. For years, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s score sheet included the 1,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in investments that never materialized at the Hankook Synthetics plant in south Augusta.

Anyway, what’s important is the “net” number of jobs created. In other words, can a community declare victory if it creates 1,000 jobs in a year but loses 1,500 others?
Richmond County’s net increase in jobs during 2005, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (which tracks jobs on a September-to-September basis), was a negative 1.3 percent.

THESE FOLKS MEAN BUSINESS: T-Mobile, which earlier this year announced it would open a 750-employee call center off Wheeler Road, is certainly following through on its plans to create jobs.

Last week, the company had 1,200 people at its job fair – which is double the turnout it has had at any other job fair.

GOLDEN ARCHES: The phone call about the NBTY project was eclipsed by about a dozen other calls regarding a topic that is apparently more pressing: the Walton Way McDonald’s.

The recent demolition of the restaurant at 1464 Walton Way has concerned many employees in and around the city’s medical district, who fear they’ll have to head up Washington Road or down to south Augusta to get their french fry fix.

To them I say: Don’t worry; the property owners are replacing the old McDonald’ s with a new one.

SOLD OUT: Just down the street from the Walton Way McDonald’s is the downtown office for Mullins Laboratory, the market’s largest provider of pathology services.
Insiders to the local medical sector have known for several weeks that the homegrown company was acquired by Australia-based Sonic Healthcare Ltd., one of the world’s largest diagnostics company. Now the outsiders know, too.

Mullins Laboratory’s management says everything will remain the same – including the company name – at its six locations, and that company’s principals will still be involved in the business – just not as owners.

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