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A new turn for megasite

POSTED: September 21, 2009 7:07 p.m.
Photo by Pat Donahue/

Savannah Economic Development Authority Chairman Brian Foster, Mitsubishi Power Systems President and CEO Koji Hasegawa, Gov. Sonny Perdue and Mitsubishi Vice President Dave Walsh send the ceremonial dirt flying as the state welcomed Mitsubishi to the dormant Pooler megasite.

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POOLER — The long-awaited and much-anticipated announcement Monday at the sprawling megasite off I-16 and I-95 is expected to have far-reaching effects, state and local officials said.

The hotly-rumored deal between the state and Mitsubishi Power Systems was consummated Monday afternoon as Gov. Sonny Perdue, MPSA President and CEO Koji Hasegawa and other dignitaries broke ground on the Japanese firm’s planned plant at the Pooler megasite. And Chatham County likely won’t be the only community to gain from the 500-job, $325 million investment in the gas turbine production facility.

“This is a monumental day for this area,” said Effingham Industrial Development Authority Chief Executive Officer John Henry. “The recognition this area will get from this announcement is tremendous for everyone. We’re happy they’re moving forward on this site. It’s going to be great for the entire region. We look forward to what this is going to bring to Effingham County as well.”

State Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) has watched and waited as the megasite has sat empty. He was Pooler mayor when the state wooed DaimlerChrysler to locate there, only to have the carmaker decide not to build at the megasite.

“This is just phenomenal,” he said. “With one out of 10 Georgians out of work, this is just great news. This is great news for this region. This is great news for the state. To have these 500 to 700 (jobs) on the way, that’s just wonderful news.”

Mitsubishi will build advanced steam and gas turbines at its Pooler location, and the company — which had $32 billion in revenue last year — also will service turbines and related components for power generation. 

“This is a world-class company, and frankly, I love the sector they’ve chosen,” Gov. Sonny Perdue said. “You look at the energy balance sheet across the U.S., this is a bright future for this business model. It’s a great venue and a great beginning for this megasite.”

Perdue said the addition of the renowned Japanese company may lure other firms to the area.

“Coastal Georgia has done very well in the last few years, even in the downturn,” he said. “This will have an attractive effect for this site. This is going to be a beautiful commercial home for a brand name that people will recognize in the manufacture of gas turbines.”

Mitsubishi’s facility will take up 119 acres in the megasite, which has approximately 1,500 acres available.

“The good news is we still have a world-class tenant with 500 jobs coming, and we still have a megasite,” Perdue said. “We didn’t need to necessarily preserve it for one tenant. We did try to market it intact for a while, but I think we’re better off with more than one tenant. If you give me more than 500 jobs on a little over 100 acres, I’ll take it every day.”

Mitsubishi hopes to start work on the first phase by Dec. 1 and aims to have the factory running by the third quarter of 2010, said Dave Walsh, Mitsubishi vice president. Production in a temporary facility in Pooler is expected to start in early 2010.

“We’re off to a running start,” he said. “We’ll be in full swing by next September.”

Phase I will feature the manufacture of combuster components for the world’s largest, most efficient and cleanest gas turbines, Walsh said. Each one supplies enough power for 100,000 consumers of electricity.

“These are very large machines, weigh about 350 tons, and run with the precision of a Swiss watch,” he said.

The company expects to hire about 200 workers within the first two years and increase its labor roll to 300 in three years.

“We’re looking forward to having access to a much broader talent pool for engineers, management and trades,” Walsh said. ‘We’re going to be offering a lot of opportunities for a wide range of folks.”

Parts and service will be housed throughout the Southeast, and gas turbines consist of more than 5,000 parts and components. That means a great deal of potential for Effingham to become the new home for some of the power giant’s suppliers.

“I’m certain we’ll see some residual effects,” Henry said. “A lot of it is going to depend on the type of suppliers they have. Effingham County is a great place to live and work.”

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