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Top Stories
April 20, 2006 Issue

A hopping good time
A crowd gathered at the Wrens Middle School walking track on Saturday, April 15, to hunt for Easter eggs in an event sponsored by Wrens Better Hometown. A variety of age groups were present for the hunt. Children in each age division who found the most eggs were awarded special prizes.

Other Top Stories
Mining operation closing
DAJC agrees to purchase more than 600 acres in Wrens area

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Mining operation closing

Georgia-Tennessee Mining Company expected to shut down operations at the Wrens plant in the near future

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Georgia-Tennessee Mining Company recently announced to its employees that they would be shutting their doors sometime in the future.

Plant Manager Larry McPhearson said that the parent company that owns Georgia-Tennessee, Sumitomo Corporation, has yet to disclose any real details of the plant closing. Employees only know that it looms in the future.


Sumitomo Corporation owns many manufacturing plants and businesses throughout the world.

The Wrens plant manufactures absorbent clay and packages cedar shavings.

Jefferson County's Economic Developer Tom Jordan noted that the plant closing would definitely hurt the employees and county.

"We will certainly feel for those employees and the county if they follow through [with the closure]," Jordan said. "At this point I think that it is going to happen."

The plant employs 40 people. Jordan added that the Sumitomo Corporation is having employee meetings preparing them for the closing.

Jordan also said that he has heard many rumors as to whether the plant will actually close, why it is closing and whether or not another company will come in to buy it.

"If the property is perhaps purchased by someone who would continue to run it, they would stay open," Jordan said. "From a personal perspective I don't understand everything that I hear about the closing. But much of the news surrounding the closing is mostly rumors."

Jordan did not have a lot of hard facts on the plant's future, but he did say that the company is meeting with different agencies to help in the closing. He also said that the Jefferson County Development Authority has offered to help Georgia-Tennessee in any way possible.


DAJC agrees to purchase more than 600 acres in Wrens area

Focus now moves to development of neccessary infrastructure

By Ben Roberts
Staff Writer

The Development Authority of Jefferson County (DAJC) has decided to move forward with the purchase of 606 acres of land for industrial development in the north end of the county, designating over $1.4 million of its allotted SPLOST funds to the project.

In a called meeting that began last Tuesday afternoon, April 11, and was recessed until the following morning, DAJC members voted 5-0 to exercise their "back-up" option on the tract located just south of Wrens. The purchase price for those 606 acres is $2,350 per acre. Authority member Edie Pundt was the only member absent from last week's meeting.


The 606-acres, which lies east of Kings Mill Road, north of Campground Road and west of the rail line, is currently owned by three different landowners or groups: Gail W. Arrington, Tony C. Wren Enterprises LLC and the estate of Nina T. McCorquodale.

The DAJC first entered into the secondary option agreements in June of 2005, behind a Canadian-based corporation, Grant Forest Products Inc., that was interested in the possibility of locating an Oriented Strand Board (OSB) plant on the site. Those six-month options were extended for another six-months, which ended at midnight last Saturday, April 15.

DAJC officials had been working against that April deadline in an effort to compare the 606-acre tract, referred to as "Site 1," to five other sites located in the north end of the county.

The Georgia Tech Economic Development Institute put together a detailed analysis of the six properties, taking into consideration a number of factors, including cost, location, total acreage versus usable acreage and the cost of necessary infrastructure.

DAJC chairman Bill Easterlin said the study, as well as the opinions of various economic development officials on the state level, were used so that DAJC members could make the most informed decision before purchasing any land.

"The objective of this study was to compare six sites, with access to the railroad, in the north end of the county, for industrial development," Easterlin said. "It also had to be a site we can get infrastructure to - water, sewer and gas. In Wadley, we have land near the railroad, but no gas. Louisville has gas but no railroad access."

Among the six sites, Site 1 was the largest by far, with the highest estimate of usable acres.

The price per acre for the tract was estimated to be the lowest, however, at $2,350, since DAJC officials expected their negotiating price to climb in all of the other tracts. Easterlin explained that the authority will also pay any conservation easement penalties plus the timber value on for Early estimates put those figures at an additional $150,000 combined, Easterlin said.

One of the most important figures in the decision-making process was the study's estimate of property and infrastructure cost per possible useable acre. Those costs ranged from $2,903 at their lowest estimate and $6,021 at their highest. Site 1 fell in the middle of that group at $4,600.

"We knew this would not be cheap land," Easterlin said. "We had appraisals done, which set the minimum, and we negotiated this price. We recognize that it's at the high end of reasonable value, not the low end."

According to Easterlin, Grant, which decided to locate two OSB plants in South Carolina, is interested in now purchasing an option on the 606-acres from the DAJC. The company has said it would like to keep the Jefferson County site as a back-up should something happen to one of the two sites in South Carolina.

Easterlin said the DAJC would be willing to discuss such an option with the company.

In the meantime, however, Easterlin said it is the DAJC's job to begin contacting state and regional economic development officials to begin marketing the property to potential industries as well as developing a clear plan for getting infrastructure to the site.

"We need a good plan - well funded - now, and be prepared to move when the time comes," Easterlin said.

The DAJC is set to receive almost $3.4 million in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds over the next five years. Easterlin said the DAJC expects to receive financing through First State Bank of Jefferson County and that the monthly SPLOST payments should be enough to cover the monthly payments for the 606-acres.

"This gives us a very good product to sell; state officials will be excited about this," Jefferson County Economic Developer Tom Jordan told authority members after their vote last week.

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