Columbia County officials broke ground Wednesday on a speculative building in Grovetown that already is being used as a lure to bring new industry to the area.
Zack Daffin, the executive director of the Columbia County Development Authority, said he has received several serious inquiries from potential tenants for the 50,000-square-foot building, which he said should be completed by March or April.
Mr. Daffin declined to discuss specifics, saying talks with potential clients were still in the early stages. He did say the type of companies being courted are "clean industry."
The building is on 4.4 acres in the Horizon South Industrial Park, with frontage on Wrightsboro Road near John Deere Parkway. The planned structure - essentially four walls and a roof that a tenant will complete to its specifications - is expected to cost $1.2 million to $1.5 million, the authority has said.
The authority secured a state grant for $140,566 and an interest-free federal loan for $450,000, with the rest financed through a public-private partnership with developers Bill Kulke, Tony Atkins and David Darby. Rental income from a tenant will pay off the 10-year federal loan.
As work crews cleared the site of trees behind them, Ron Thigpen, the authority's board chairman, and county Commissioner Lee Anderson hailed the project as an example of successful public-private partnerships. Mr. Thigpen thanked the authority's staff for finding a creative means of funding the project without burdening taxpayers.
The development authority's first speculative building was a 128,000-square-foot structure that remained empty for about five years until filled by John Deere. Mr. Daffin said a stronger market exists today for the smaller facility, and though the first building did not immediately have a tenant, it attracted companies to at least look at Columbia County.
He said the new building is the first of a series of facilities he would like to see.
"It would be my goal that we have a spec building program that we use as a vehicle to ensure we have an adequate building inventory" in the county, he said.
Mr. Daffin said one prospective tenant has already approached the authority about increasing the building's size to 65,000 square feet. He said that at the current phase of construction it could be done without much delay.
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