1. Kimberly-Clark Corp. expansion: Consumer products giant Kimberly-Clark Corp. began work on an $80 million, 130,000-square-foot expansion project at its flagship in Beech Island tissue plant. The top-secret facility, set to open in 2001, will create 100 jobs and produce a new product line for the company.
2. Delta departure/Comair arrival: Delta Air Lines ceased jet service to Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field, leaving commuter affiliate Atlantic Southeast Airlines' small jets and turboprops to handle all traffic between Augusta and its Atlanta hub. Comair, another Delta commuter carrier, in December began offering two daily nonstop flights to Cincinnati, giving Augusta access to a third hub city (along with Atlanta and Charlotte).
3. Edgefield County success: Edgefield County, S.C., scored several major industrial recruiting victories throughout the year, the largest of which brought apparel VF Corp.; Components Manufacturing Co., a supplier to Rheem Manufacturing Co.; and Eastern Pacific International, a producer of wood veneers. Combined, the companies represent $60 million in capital investments and 700 new jobs.
4. Washington Group International headquarters: A government contracting behemoth was created with the summer merger of Morrison Knudsen Corp., the parent company of Savannah River Site's contract operator, and Raytheon Engineers & Constructors. The new company, called Washington Group International, chose Aiken as its headquarters for its $2 billion government operating unit.
5. Monsanto-Pharmacia: Pharmaceutical company Monsanto Co. merged with Pharmacia & Upjohn in April. In May, Monsanto, now a division of the new company called Pharmacia Corp., opened a $100 million plant to manufacture the bovine hormone Posilac, which increases milk production in dairy cows.
Also in May, the company sold its Augusta NutraSweet plant as part of a $440 million deal with a Boston-based investment firm.
6. Biotechnology initiatives: State Sens. Charles Walker and Don Cheeks pushed for creation of the Georgia Medical Center Authority to help fund biotechnology initiatives in Augusta and the rest of the state. The 15-member authority, appointed in December, will attempt to lure private-sector biotech industry using its financing power and Augusta's existing medical infrastructure.
7. Bridgestone-Firestone: All eyes were on the tire maker's Aiken plant after the summer recall of 6.5 million Firestone light truck and SUV tires. The 3-year-old facility played a major role in producing replacement tires and became involved in a political tiff between the company and South Carolina's Attorney General Charlie Condon, who demanded the company put South Carolina higher on its tire replacement list because of the lucrative tax breaks it receives.
8. Burke County industry: Waynesboro, with its available land and slack labor market, continued to be a favorite destination for new industry on the Georgia side of the metro area. Battery maker Fiamm Technologies Inc. and personal care product company Helmac Inc. chose to build multi-million-dollar facilities there. Combined, the new companies represent more than $40 million in capital investments and 300 new jobs.
9. Taylor Industrial Park: An unusual arrangement between First Union Corp. and prominent auto dealer Ann Taylor gave the businesswoman a majority stake in 69 acres of vacant industrial park property owned by the Development Authority of Richmond County.
She and three other area banks with minority interests in the property foreclosed after the authority declined to pay a debt on the property that had been written off 20 years earlier by all four of the banks.
10. Masters cleanup: The circus atmosphere that had been par for the course outside the gates of the Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters Tournament was practically eliminated thanks to strict code enforcement by Augusta-Richmond County officials and the acquisition of surrounding properties by local club members. Vendors were left with little space to hawk their goods.