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EDA's plans catching eyes

POSTED: May 17, 2007 5:02 a.m.

It may be years before DP Partners and the Effingham Economic Development Authority see buildings spring out of the ground at the EDA’s I-16 tracts near Meldrim. But the EDA is catching the eyes of others.

Peggy Jolley, the Georgia Power Coastal Region economic development manager, brought nearly 20 project managers for a tour.

“That’s phenomenal for any development authority,” Effingham EDA Chief Executive Officer John Henry said. “That’s a coup.”

Henry and Effingham EDA project manager Ryan Moore set up a 3-D aerial flyover simulation of the I-16 tract.

“That was impressive,” Henry said.

Though the EDA is close to finalizing its long-awaited agreement with DP Partners on developing the nearly 2,000 acres straddling I-16, that doesn’t mean the EDA can sit by while DP Partners does the work.

“It’s still going to be our job to help bring in clients,” EDA Vice-Chairman Chap Bennett said.

Said Henry, “It will still be an industrial park we can take prospects to.”

A meeting two weeks ago between countywide officials and state Transportation Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl helped show him how vital work on the I-16/Old River Road interchange is to the project and to the Meldrim community.

“He realized this is an important project,” Bennett said.

The interchange is scheduled to be discussed by the state transportation board next month and could be on its work program soon. But finding the money to undertake the project could be difficult.

“I think the biggest disappointment is finding out it’s a four-to-seven year funding cycle,” Bennett said. “There are some things we can pony up and do. Once it’s approved, we should all push to get to the front of the list.”

Discussions have included seeing what the county can accomplish or pay for to help speed the process along. DOT engineers have been involved in designs for straightening out the curve of Old River Road near the entrance for the northern tract.

“We do have a bird in hand,” Henry said. “As long as everyone works together and stays behind it, we’ve got our legislative support behind it. The DOT has stepped up to the plate on this one.”

Said Bennett: “It’s been a long experience, but everybody has worked together.”

Along with the computer-generated look at the I-16 property, Henry also showed off the EDA’s Research Forest Tract, which is much longer-term project, and what is essentially the EDA’s last available piece of property now, the frontage along Highway 21.

Henry said interest in that land is strong, and he gets two to three calls a week about it. But the inquiries are primarily trucking-related, which the EDA wants to avoid for that land for a number of reasons, including an aversion to putting more trucks on 21 north of Rincon.

The EDA’s plans are for an assembly site or a company headquarters there.

“It’s our premier piece of property,” Bennett said. “We wanted to make a statement with it. We want the best of the best. We want a good investment, something that will make that quadrant very appealing.”

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