McCaskill: business prospects ‘looking up’

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The outlook for new business prospects in Decatur County seems to be improving, the county’s top industrial promoter told county commissioners Tuesday morning.

Since the current economic downturn began last spring—resulting in the closure or downsizing of a number of firms locally and cross the United States—local leaders had grown accustomed to just “hanging on” to what they had until things improved, said Rick McCaskill, director of the Decatur County Industrial Authority.

“It’s starting to feel like [business prospects] are looking around again,” McCaskill said.

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One new prospect McCaskill said is interested in setting up locally is a finance-related business that while “not huge,” could still create some new jobs. With Decatur County’s unemployment rate at 10.9 percent, and the statewide average at 9.3 percent, those jobs are badly needed.

Some new jobs have come from the recent move of biopolymer-manufacturer Meredian to remodel the first 70,000 feet of a building it acquired through lease-purchase—McCaskill said 30 workers are currently on-site installing a test manufacturing line. Sister company Danimer, whose technology is increasingly being included in products around the world, is setting up new machinery as part of its recent expansion.

Pepi Food Services, another expanding business cited by McCaskill, received a setback variance from the Bainbridge Planning Commission on Tuesday which will help the business continue its fast-paced growth. The variance will allow the company, which had to move part of its food business to Dothan, Ala. due to growth, to tear down an aging building and build a new one to house its growing regional coffee sales business as well as a corporate training facility, Pepi President Vic Pemberton explained to Planning Commission members at their Tuesday evening business. Pepi is also leasing property from local businessman Monroe Godwin to work on a future recycling-related component of its business, Pemberton said.

The Georgia Ports Authority facility in Bainbridge has received grants for improving some of its buildings that were in poor shape, McCaskill said.

Stir of activity at Air Park

At the Industrial Air Park, flight school Ag-Flight—which trains many new cropduster pilots each year—has built three new dormitories for its students to live in while they study, McCaskill said. An aircraft maintenance business is constructing its hangar at the air park, as well.

In related business, county commissioners unanimously voted to allow County Administrator Tom Patton to apply for federal funding to go toward rehabilitation of a taxiway at the airport. Patton and other local leaders have said they believe past and ongoing improvements to the airport are a key part of attracting business prospects to the county. County commissioners also approved a contract with Croy Engineering for Phase I and Phase II of the taxiway rehabilitation, which Patton said is a recurring project at any airport. The good news is that the Federal Aviation Administration will pay for 97.5 percent of the cost associated with taxiway’s rehabilitation, Patton said.

Previous stories on Meredian:

Meredian going into old AF&Y plant

Authority members tour Meredian, DaniMer