Development Authority attorney to negotiate with Elberton over industrial park

By Linton Johnson

The Development Authority of Elbert County, Elberton and Bowman voted unanimously Thursday to direct its attorney to respond to the City of Elberton over the city’s intention to execute a contract option to claim ownership of the Elberton Industrial Park for $1.
Development Authority Attorney Rob Leverett will also negotiate with City Attorney Steve Jenkins “to resolve the matter,” as part of the board’s action taken Thursday. The Development Authority was notified by Elberton Mayor Larry Guest on Oct. 3 of the city’s plans to fulfill what it claims is its obligation to purchase the unoccupied 140 acres in the industrial park off Mineral Springs Road.
Rusty Warner, executive director of the Development Authority, told the board Thursday that plans approved by the Elbert County Board of Commissioners to request bids on a new speculative industrial building in the park have been put on hold until the situation with the city is resolved. Commission Chairman Tommy Lyon had said would be “almost impossible” to develop a spec building on property not owned by the Development Authority.
In other business Thursday, Warner reported that he is recruiting a number of developers and companies, including “a good handle on a couple of good projects. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring one of these out here within the next 30 days.”
Board member Betty Yetzina said that timing is critical now in light of the recent announcement that Tenneco plans to close its Hartwell plant in phases over the next two years. “I think it’s imperative that we do something fast because with Tenneco closing, so many of the people in our area work there and I know they did in the rest of Elbert County. And these people are all going to be without work within time.”
Warner added that some industrial prospects are concerned about a “lack of work force, and people are working two weeks and not ever showing up again.” In response, board member Greg Gunter asked if the prospects are taken to meet with the leadership at the Elbert County campus of Athens Technical Institute, which provides job training in a number of areas for local students.
”Before they set that meeting up with me, they already know about Athens Tech. They already know about everything,” Warner replied. “They come to me already loaded up with all the information they want, just because of the Internet. I’m sort of the probably 10th man down the pole.”
To which board member Allen Nicas added, “He may be 10th man on the pole, but he is the point man. When industry is looking for a contact, they look for the economic developer for the area. They don’t look for Joe Blow and Professor So-and-So.”

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