Augusta is on a short list of cities being considered by Boral Industries Inc. -- the parent company of local subsidiary Boral Bricks -- as the site of a new clay paver-making facility.
But Boral also is considering Mississippi as the site for its new facility. Boral officials say the local and state incentives in Mississippi bode well for the competition, while lengthy waiting periods for building permits have discouraged them from building in Augusta.
Company officials said they are unsure how many jobs the new plant would create.
Augusta already is home to four Boral Bricks plants, which employ more than 300 people. These existing plants make Augusta a strong candidate to reap the economic benefits of Boral Industries' first-ever clay paver plant, said Paul Samples, vice president of marketing for Boral Industries.
Clay pavers are bricks that are laid side-by-side in the ground.
Boral plans to find a site for its $10 million clay paver facility within the next six months, Mr. Samples said. Augusta has a wealth of resources from which to draw, including the clay needed to make pavers and a strong labor force, he said.
But Mississippi has similar raw material availability in addition to a plant in Macon, Miss.
Locally, renovations have been delayed at the Boral Bricks plant on Arthern Road in East Augusta. The local plant is being expanded in an effort to double Boral's architectural products capacity.
Obtaining an operating and construction permit from the state's Environmental Protection Division took six months longer than Boral anticipated. It took nine months for Boral's permit to be approved, he said.
"One of the things we look at when building is how difficult it will be and the amount of time involved," Mr. Samples said. "Our experience in Georgia is a little more laborious than we'd like."
And in industry, time is money, he said.
Mr. Samples said while he is unsure if the current Augusta expansion will result in new jobs, a new paver plant would definitely create additional employment opportunities.
According to Georgia's Environmental Protection Division, which oversees federal air quality mandates, a simple permit should take between 90 and 120 days.
Delays at the Augusta brick plant were due to incomplete information on the permit applications, said Jimmy Johnston, manager of the permitting program for the air protection branch of the EPD.
"We're not far out of line for how long it takes to get a permit issued," Mr. Johnston said.
The EPD's workload has doubled this year, Mr. Johnston said. While a permit can be approved for expedition, the EPD says it is difficult to place priority on one company over another.
"We strive very hard to get permits out (in a timely manner)," said Terry Johnson, manager of Volatile Organic Compounds division of EPD. "I'd be surprised if Mississippi could do it in less time than us."
Employs locally: 329
Employs nationally: 1,850
1999 U.S. Sales: $400 million
Augusta plants output: 300 million bricks annually
National output: 1.5 billion bricks annually
Heidi Coryell covers business for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3215.
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