Conversion rate for old textile mills growing

When it comes to redeveloping Augusta’s old textile mills, the score stands 2-2.

 

The two wins, of course, are the Enterprise and Sutherland mills. Both are swanky business addresses – Enterprise also has swanky apartments – offering tenants ultra modern amenities in a historic red-brick package.

And both were tackled by Augusta businessman Clay Boardman, whose Flywheel LLC venture (see Houghton School, Widow’s House, etc.) is trying to make the Marion Building its next redevelopment success story.

The scoreboard might soon read 3-1 if a startup company headed by two South African entrepreneurs can follow through on its big idea to turn Sibley Mill into a high-tech business park and 10-megawatt data center powered by hydroelectric generators on the Augusta Canal.

After months of pitching the ambitious concept to potential investors in and around Augusta, the men – Wayne Millar and James Ainslie – went public this month with their multiphase plan to turn the 136-year-old former cotton mill into a techie mecca called Augusta Cyber Works.

They say it’s exactly what a city with a burgeoning information technology industry and resurgent urban core needs.

The mill’s owner, the Augusta Canal Authority, likes the idea so much that they gave the developers’ company, Cape Augusta Digital Properties, a 75-year lease on the property, with the first five years rent free. And it will give the partners first crack at redeveloping the underutilized King Mill next door when current tenant Standard Textile completely winds down.

Then we’d be 4-0. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a long way to go before Sibley is considered a win.

Progress is already being made. This past week, almost as if on cue, Cape Augusta announced Cyber Works’ first tenant: EDTS, an Augusta-based provider of managed IT and cyber-security services.

Cape Augusta said EDTS has signed a 10-year lease on 32,500 square feet of space in one of the smaller buildings on the 20-acre Sibley campus. It expects to move into the space by November.

To say EDTS brings some gravitas to this highly speculative development is an understatement.

Not counting global giant Unisys’ Augusta operations center, EDTS is, hands down, the largest corporate IT concern in Augusta, with the bulk of its 75 employees working from its main office on the third floor of the Merrill Lynch building on Broad Street.

Founded in 1999 as Elliott Davis Technology Solutions, EDTS has been locally owned and operated by CEO Charles Johnson since the Greenville, S.C.-based accounting firm spun it off in 2009.

An even greater endorsement of the textile-to-tech concept was the part of Ainslie’s announcement that Johnson has personally taken an equity stake in Cape Augusta. With two decades of running a successful business under his belt and a bachelor’s degree in finance, Johnson has peeked under Cape Augusta’s hood and likes what he sees, one must assume.

That’s good, because with the entire Sibley Mill price tag hovering in the tens of millions of dollars range, Cape Augusta is going to need all the investors it can get.

 

GIMME SOME MONEY: What was it that Bob Hope said about banks? Something along the lines of they’ll lend you money only “if you can prove that you don’t need it.”

There’s an awfully big kernel of truth in that old quip – the entire banking industry is built on the concept of loaning money to people who can pay back more than they borrowed.

Georgia banks have historically been fiscally conservative – though you wouldn’t have known that by the latast recession; we had more bank failures than any other state – but a web-based company that plays matchmaker between lenders and small businesses says the Peach State is one of the best states for getting a loan.

Lendio’s recently released Best States for Small Business Funding report lists Georgia as the No. 8. The land of maple syrup and Bernie Sanders, Vermont, ranked No. 1.

California, Utah, Wash­ington and New Hampshire rounded out the top 5.

 

BAD CREDIT, NO DATE: Here’s another goodie from the survey file: Bankrate.com says two in five U.S. adults said that knowing someone’s credit score would affect their decision to date that person. That includes 42 percent of millennials (the highest of any age group), 47 percent of college graduates and 50 percent of people with annual household income of $75,000 or more.

Bankrate.com’s credit survey also found 78 percent of credit cardholders who asked for a higher credit limit got it. It also found that 34 percent of Americans have never reviewed their credit history.

So, to recap, a third of us don’t know our own credit scores but two-fifths of us say it is important enough to determine whether someone is worthy of being wined and dined.

No wonder it’s so hard to meet “the right person.”

 

HELP WANTED: FPL Food LLC is looking for the “right” people to work in its beef processing plant in Augusta.

The privately held supplier of boxed and ground beef products said it needs to hire a couple of dozen managers and hourly employees at its New Savannah Road facility to take on additional work after the recent sale of its Columbia ground beef processing plant to agricultural giant Cargill Inc.

“This is an exciting time for FPL Food, and we invite hardworking individuals to join us,” FPL CEO Francois Léger said in a statement announcing the new positions.

The Augusta-based company said the sale of its South Carolina plant will let it focus on its core business of raising and harvesting cattle, which the company does at three facilities: Châtel Farms, its 1,100-acre farm near Reidsville, Ga.; its main harvesting facility in Augusta; and its “value-added” processing plant in Thomasville, Ga.

Want a career in the beef business? Then pick up an application by going to fplfood.net/careers or going to the plant at 1301 New Savannah Road between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

 

VEGGIES ON THE SIDE: With parts of the community still reeling from the recently announced closure of the Deans Bridge Road Kroger and the Food Lion in Hephzibah, the folks at Medical Associates Plus, at 2467 Golden Camp Road, are hoping to keep wholesome foods available in south Augusta.

The federally qualified health center off Deans Bridge Road has organized the Summer Fresh Produce Market on the second Friday of each month, starting June 10 and running through September from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The open-to-the-public market will feature fresh, locally grown and organic fruits and vegetables from two local vendors, Reeves and Reeves Enterprises LLC and Adderson’s Fresh Produce. Both are members of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program and accept cash, checks and credit cards, along with welfare bucks such as WIC and EBT.

Medical Associates’ chief medical officer, Dr. Angela Wright, came up with the idea as a way to improve their patients’ health.

 

COLOR ME HAPPY: Something else that south Augusta can look forward to is the start of operations at the Huntsman Pigments and Additives plant on Dixon Airline Road near Augusta Regional Airport.

Texas-based Huntsman said it will hold opening ceremonies at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, for the $172 million facility, which will produce 30,000 tons of yellow, red and black iron oxide pigments each year. The pigments are used by companies to color everything from concrete to plastics.

The long-awaited Huntsman facility will employ about 100.

 

DOUBLE DEDUCTION: I’m a huge fan of Path2College, Georgia’s 529 college savings plan. My wife and I have been able to build a sizable college fund for our oldest son by socking away a little bit every month for the past 15 years into the tax-deductible, tax-deferred plan.

Of course, his decision to join the Navy instead of go to college throws a little wrench into the works ... but still, it’s a great program. In fact, it recently got even better.

Gov. Nathan Deal on May 3 signed legislation (House Bill 802) that will double the state tax deduction for families filing a join tax return for contributions made to Path2College Plan. Starting with returns filed in 2017, joint filers are eligible to deduct up to $4,000 per beneficiary, per year, on contributions up to $2,000 per year, regardless of their annual income.

That’s as close to a “buy one, get one free” kind of deal as you can get on your taxes. And it should do exactly what it was intended to do: incentivize families to save for their children’s and grandchildren’s future educational expenses instead of racking up huge amounts of college loans or expecting the government to roll out a “free” college-for-everyone scheme.

If you have young’uns you’d like to send to college, do yourself a favor and start a 529 plan. Now.

You can start with as little as $25, and it’s as easy as going online to path2college529.com. The future you will thank you, and so will your child.

Even if he decides to join the Navy.

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