Originally created 01/01/02

Developer makes big plans to bring in more businesses



KINGSLAND, Ga. - Bob Noble never intended to get into the development business.

He returned home in 1964 with an accounting degree from the University of Georgia and planned to run the family timber, pulp and turpentine business. But Mr. Noble attended a local city council meeting after graduation, where he learned public officials were opposed to building an industrial park.

After the council voted against the industrial park, Mr. Noble bought a tract of land, paid the city to provide water and sewer lines and lured two businesses to open on the property within six months.

THAT EXPERIENCE led Mr. Noble, 62, on a career path spanning nearly four decades of writing grants for state regional development authorities and being the director of development authorities in rural Georgia and metro Atlanta.

"I didn't know I was going to do this," Mr. Noble said. "I planned to run my father's business."

Mr. Noble, who became head of the Camden County Joint Development Authority last month, sees an area ripe as a prime location for new businesses. The challenge, Mr. Noble said, isn't in convincing businesses to come to Camden County - they will come anyway. It's ensuring new businesses - environmentally sensitive distribution centers and light industry - locate there.

It's the best way for public officials to control growth, he said. If things go as planned, Mr. Noble predicted the county tax digest could more than double in five years, along with the number of employment opportunities. The county's population could increase by as much as 50 percent in that time period, too.

"It's going to be interesting," Mr. Noble said. "I normally set my goals to what can be achieved."

Key selling points to the area are the close proximity to ports in Brunswick, Ga., and Jacksonville, Interstate 95, an international airport, a qualified labor source and the quality of life that Mr. Noble said lured him to the area.

He'll also explain to business owners that low property values and millage rates make Camden County a place to locate.

"I've always loved coastal Georgia," Mr. Noble said. "When the opportunity came up ... I was already familiar with the area."

Mr. Noble said he's spent the past month developing contacts with elected officials and the business community both locally and in northeast Florida to develop a plan to market the area.

"I will show them (business owners) a different way of life," Mr. Noble said. "I talk (travel) time instead of specific distance."