McCaskill gives promising report on development at Rotary

Published 4:18 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bainbridge and Decatur County are on the path for new growth and job creation according to Rick McCaskill, executive director of the Development Authority.

He spoke to Bainbridge Rotary on Tuesday, giving many details about how the new Taurus Company was acquired. Basically it was a long drawn out process, but he gives credit to how everyone— the City and County leaders, as well as State government—came together to make it happen.

Initially the company will create 300 jobs, but as they transfer their corporate offices from Miami, and work continues to attract some of their suppliers, there will be more jobs to come.

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The problem then becomes where the workers will come from. He described a tight job market with the fact we are now enjoying an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent, and have lost population over the last few years.

He estimates it will take Taurus one year to build their plant, and during that year the schools, (high school, college and technical school) will be providing coursework  to help prepare the necessary trained workforce. He expects the starting wage to be around $36,000 a year, and the company will bring approximately 34 employees from their national headquarters, as well as another 30 families from their Florida workforce. The remaining workforce will be recruited regionally as well as locally.

The new plant is to be built on a 73 acre site behind John Deere in the Commodore Industrial Park, next to the firing range used by law enforcement.

McCaskill gave updates on other industrial growth happening, saying nearly every existing plant has done an expansion in the last 18 months.

This includes the building of the first rail spur terminal to be built in a rural area. Initially it will have two spurs with room to expand to five. It will be operated by Shortline Railroad and should give existing business good options for shipping product. It will not be a benefit to Steward Machine, however, which requires barge shipping for their huge locks and gates. In answer to a question from the audience about what it would take to make barge shipping available, McCaskill answered, “To dredge about one mile of the Apalachicola River.” But, there seem to be hangups with government regulations.

Harrell Ag Products, a manufacturer of semi-truck trailers for hauling peanuts has located in the Airport Industrial Park in the building formerly occupied by Sips. It currently employs 25. Another Ag related product is the produce packaging plant run by Kevin Rentz, where he is now loading pumpkins.

The Propex building is now empty and McCaskill says they have lots of lookers, but it is owned by a man in Miami and they don’t have much say over it.

An update on Bainbridge Manufacturing is more positive. They are currently employing 35-39 workers and continue to install new equipment. They now have 15-20 machines operating and are turning out product.  McCaskill said they are behind on their hiring, but he expects more to come. They are also taking advantage of the technical training of new employees.