LOUISVILLE, Ga. — In four months, Coastal Meats plans to have about 115 new jobs filled and employees at work in its new chicken processing facility, which will occupy the old Forstmann plant near Louisville.
“We’re excited to be in this community and want to be a part of it,” said owner Bill Crider, who was in town last week. Coastal Meats is the company he started 4½ years ago in Statesboro, Ga., focused on the export and domestic sales of poultry products.
Crider is the son of Billy Crider, the founder of Crider Foods of Stillmore, Ga., the industry leader in canned chicken and a major producer of canned turkey, ham, pork and beef.
The Louisville plant will be a new business and will not be associated with the Stillmore plant.
For several months the company has been quietly working with the city of Louisville and the former property owners to obtain the property; rehabilitate the old textile facility, which has sat dormant for about 15 years; and ensure that the facility will have the services it will need to operate.
“The city of Louisville and Jefferson County did a fantastic job bringing together all of the economic development resources in their community for this project,” said Chris Carr, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Crider said one of the first things that attracted him to the Louisville plant is its potential for wastewater treatment. The old Forstmann plant has a 3 million-gallon-a-day system that was sitting unused.
The city has purchased the property and is working on renovating the water treatment system to use it for all of the city’s domestic sewage treatment in addition to the plant’s needs.
Crider said his company had been exploring sites across the state for the plant but immediately liked what it saw in Louisville.
“The door never got closed, and to me that shows an interest,” Crider said. “We like to see that kind of dedication and are looking forward to seeing what we can make happen long term. The tenacity of the community and everybody who has worked to keep the project moving has been exciting.”
According to the memorandum of understanding signed by all parties in July, the first phase, consisting of the renovation, construction and equipping of the improvements and the acquisition and installation of equipment (which includes about $15,250,000 in capital investments), will be completed by Dec. 31.
Sapp said the city used a half-million dollars of city reserve funding and $1.3 million of Jefferson County Development Authority money to buy the property – 190 acres along with the building, four standard wells and the water-treatment facility – at the cost of $1.8 million.
“We are deeding over approximately 38 acres and the building to the Jefferson County Development Authority, who will lease it to the project,” Sapp said. “The primary responsibility of the city is to provide the utilities. In order to do that we have to get the wastewater plant in operation and while it is in good shape there are pieces that are missing because it was primarily an industrial facility. We have to convert it to a municipal facility.”
All of that applies to what the memorandum of understanding refers to as Phase One. The document also mentions a potential Phase Two; however, Crider said he felt it was much too early to comment on it.
“Let’s get the processes in place,” Crider said. “Let’s get our people and our team comfortable. Let’s get through the startup and let’s make sure we set the tone of this facility in such a way that it supports future growth. We feel very good about the long-term opportunities here.”
Sapp said the city sees this project as a win-win for everyone involved: the city, the company and the community.
“Everyone’s livelihood is going to improve,” Mayor Larry Morgan said. “People are going to be spending money. With all these positive effects about to take place, that’s going to open an opportunity for other people to realize small, rural Jefferson County is making an effort to improve. With this project and all it brings to the city, we’re actually going to have something to sell and try to recruit another plant to come in and employ some more people.“
Coastal plans to begin taking applications in November.