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Interest builds again in IDA’s Treutlen site

POSTED: February 27, 2014 8:23 p.m.

The loss of a Chinese phosphate company hasn’t slowed the Effingham Industrial Development Authority.

IDA CEO John Henry said the Governor Treutlen tract, which had been projected to be the home of Xingfa, has continued to draw interest.

“We’ve had more site visits and more projects roll through,” Henry said.

One potential industry, unnamed as of yet, could mean as many as 350 jobs and a $70 million capital investment. The prospect first visited Effingham three weeks ago.

Henry said it is a high-power use industry, and Effingham was one of the very few sites in the state the company was exploring.

“We’d love to have it,” he said. “It’s a great project.”

A Dec. 31 deadline with Xingfa passed with the company unable to sign a memorandum of understanding to build a plant that was expected to employ 50 people and produce food-grade phosphates. The company was going to purchase the entire 83-acre Governor Treutlen site at the Effingham Industrial Park, with about 30 acres going to an American company that would co-locate with Xingfa.

But the American company couldn’t complete its end of the pact with Xingfa, putting Xingfa’s deal with the IDA in jeopardy. Henry and IDA Chairman Dennis Webb visited China twice last year, with their final trip part of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Asian junket that included the formal announcement of Xingfa coming to Effingham.

At their meeting last week, IDA members heard a presentation from Herbert Barber of Xicon on economic and infrastructure planning services. The firm, which has a Savannah office, is working in six continents and boasts 25 Ph.D.s and 715 years of experience.

Henry said the IDA has been talking with Xicon about ways to help the board with its mission, and a draft proposal could be ready for the March IDA meeting.

Barber, who holds two doctorates, said the company works in the area of decision science, taking the math and applying to the fields of finance, research, economics and engineering.

“People are people,” he said. “Whether they are the king of Swaziland or living in Wayne County, they just want to improve their lives.”

Even with its public sector work, Barber said, the company looks at the return on the investment, looking at jobs a project might create and what jobs it might cost.

“We’re not the guys you want to bring in if you want to be the retail Mecca of the world,” Barber said. “We can’t guarantee we’ll be the smartest people at the table; but we’ll promise you we’ll know more than anybody else.”

Barber also complimented the IDA on its unique position, both geographically and logistically, with the amount of land it has to offer. He also said the economic development authorities are the only driving forces to solicit industries.

“You’re the envy of everything south of Atlanta,” Barber said. “I’m not waiting on Atlanta to grow the rest of the state of Georgia. I’m interested in getting those jobs and bringing them to southeast Georgia. I’ve run tons of numbers on Effingham County. There is potential, potential, potential. But you’ve got to put the economics back into economic development. You’re doing a fabulous job moving this area of the state forward.”

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