Some parts of Burke County are so remote that even the armadillos can cross the road with little to fear.
There are big changes in the wind, though. Just last week, the Girard Mall—once the tiny community’s social hub—reopened its doors, and restarted its gas pumps, after being dormant for more than a year.
The new owner, Curt Ashe, already operated a small grocery just down the street. He decided to buy the mall and move into it.
“We appreciate your business,” he told me when my sons and I stopped in for hotdogs and Mountain Dew last Sunday. The revitalized mall (it is actually an expanded convenience store) will have deer heads on the wall and an arrowhead collection for all to see.
Not far away, another store has opened its doors at Jenkins Corner; and a few miles down Georgia Hwy. 23 in the Telfair community, workers are beginning to rebuild after an April tornado wiped the A&A Minit Mart literally off the map.
All that activity is just the calm before the storm. There are trailer camps and mobile home parks opening up and rental properties being renovated and furnished.
The catalyst is Plant Vogtle, whose twin cooling towers have been part of the rural landscape for almost three decades. Its owners are planning to add two new reactors that will open in 2016 and 2017, bringing more than 800 permanent jobs and—in the interim—about 3,000 construction jobs.
Coming in our Sunday editions, we will bring you a special report on the project, its technology and the impact it will have across the region.
It will be welcome news for the county’s residents, and for the workers who will fill the many new jobs.
But it might be trouble for those armadillos.