Announcements of growth top the list during year of turmoil
by Matt Shinall
Dec 29, 2010 | 2706 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Clarence Brown Conference Center that opened the latter part of this year has already been the site of some significant events.
SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, File
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A year of continued recession saw businesses close their doors while countless others struggled to stay afloat. Yet, a flurry of announcements made in 2010 lends hope to a recovery and local growth.

Additions have been made on the small business front as well as losses but large gains have been made in manufacturing while long-term announcements offer a glimmer of hope for continued development.

Recently with the announcement of LakePoint Sports, a world-class multi-sport complex, the prospect of a brighter future may be on the horizon. Although LakePoint has not made a definite confirmation, confidence runs high as it does with other announcements in the business world including long-term expansion plans for Toyo Tire. Meanwhile, a host of smaller yet substantial additions have been made in other projects including Americo in Cartersville and Vista Metals in Adairsville, each bringing with them about 50 jobs.

Melinda Lemmon, executive director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development, is in the process of assembling a year-end report of 2010 projects. This report is expected to bring forth additional announcements and jobs painting an even brighter future for Bartow's unemployed and underemployed.

"I believe 2010 has been a very good year to us. There are some exciting results that will come out of the work we've put into 2010 and I believe that 2011 looks promising," Lemmon said.

That work includes securing incentive designations such as Opportunity Zones and Less Developed Census Tracts. These designations offer qualifying businesses within the boundaries tax breaks for job creation. Areas given special designation have been deemed economically distressed from a large number of job losses within the specific community. Although some of the designations have been very short-term, an appeal has been drafted requesting an extension of those incentives.

"We're starting on the right path to making job creation progress but if we have another year of that status -- of that special designation -- I think we'll really make some headway in replacement jobs being created," Lemmon said. "It may not hit immediately but I think we will see dividends in the year to come and the year after that from some of these designations and announcements."

LakePoint Sports

LakePoint Sports Development Group announced earlier this month it will construct a mixed-use complex in southern Bartow County. Situated on 1,380 acres between Interstate 75 and Highway 41, the project will feature sports fields, entertainment facilities, retail shops, restaurants, hotels and educational campuses when complete.

The core of the development, which features three miles of frontage along I-75 including the Red Top Mountain and Emerson-Allatoona interchanges, is a 260-acre sports complex with 16 Major League Baseball-sized fields, 12 soccer and lacrosse fields and a 100,000-square-foot indoor sports facility.

Judy Sparks with LakePoint Sports said the group is conservatively estimating 2,000 jobs. Once complete, that number could increase to 4,000.

"The first phase..., which includes all the fields, putting in all the infrastructure, building this 100,000-square-foot building ... [but] does not include hotels or scout towers, is $160 million. ... We haven't really broken it down [to a number of phases]. It's more of a first phase and a next phase. If we are blessed that it all comes together, it will just be two phases. The market's going to dictate that, but it will be more than one phase," according to Neal Freeman with LakePoint Sports.

Freeman said the overall build-out could touch a billion dollars.

Work is estimated to begin in April should the development process proceed as planned. The group was expected to file its Development of Regional Impact paperwork shortly after the announcement was made.

Talk began more than three years ago about a project like LakePoint Sporting Community & Town Center, but six months ago all the pieces fell into place.

"It's like the stars all aligned recently," Sparks said, adding that Freeman had identified Emerson as a possible location several years ago.

Location was important, and Bartow County proved promising, especially with partner former Atlanta Braves Manager Bobby Cox having a home here.

Along with Cox, partners include Ned Yost, formerly with the Braves and now manager of the Kansas City Royals, and current Atlanta Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez.

Featuring such heavy-hitters from the world of baseball, it's no surprise a large part of the project focuses on the 16 baseball fields.

Describing the development as being similar to Disney's Wide World of Sports, Sparks said LakePoint will stand alone in its class.

"This will be a one-of-a-kind facility that we know of in the world. ... We are convinced it's a unique concept," she said.

With a projected visitation of 3 million people per year, LakePoint will change the face of Bartow County and Emerson.

Toyo hires 200, requests bond capacity for growth

With the completion of a two-year expansion nearly doubling the facility's size, Toyo Tire ann--ounced in September the hiring of 200 additional employees.

Standing now at 1.8 million square feet with increased production, the facility estimates total volume to be 5.2 million units per year by 2011.

"We anticipated some great things ahead for the company, but it is always rewarding to see our local companies doing well," stated Lemmon in September. "One amazing fact to me is that Toyo's employment levels have been steady -- much less growing -- in this unprecedented economic climate we find ourselves in. Our community is so grateful to Toyo for its involvement, corporate citizenship, environmental practices and more."

The potential for even greater growth was seen again in October when the company requested a bond capacity of $910 million for future expansion. Legalities are being finalized with the Cartersville-Bartow County Joint Development Authority and all expansion is contingent on future market demand, but officials have expressed confidence in the request which if utilized would increase production and add 400 new jobs over the next 10 years.

"We're hopeful that the market will continue to demand the product that they make and that they'll keep employing people here," Lemmon said. "I wish them to grow as rapidly as they are willing and able to grow and these inducement resolutions give them that capacity to respond to the market when it comes along."

Mohawk closure

A dark spot in business news was the closure of Mohawk Industries' Cartersville spun yarn plant, costing 229 jobs.

The stated reasoning behind the decision was due to current consumer trends moving away from spun yarn carpeting and toward those manufactured from filament yarn. Citing the decrease in demand for the most recent closing, Mohawk also stated that filament capacities have been increased at other facilities.

Commissioner Michael Thurmond of the Georgia Department of Labor commented on the closing, speaking of the textile industry and how it has been affected in this recession. With the decline of new home construction and home sales in general, the carpet and flooring industry has been hit hard in recent years.

"The textile manufacturing industry has just been hammered throughout the recession and this is just initial evidence to show that we are not out of the woods yet and the economy continues to struggle and as a result Georgians are finding themselves unemployed," Thurmond said. "We still have a ways to go before we can really say we're in economic recovery."

Clarence Brown Conference Center opens

One thing stands out about the Clarence Brown Conference Center -- one of the community's newest structures at 5450 Ga. 20 in Cartersville -- its technological amenities and how they are seamlessly integrated into the 'green' building.

The 44,000-square-foot facility, funded with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax dollars approved by voters in 2008, is expected to draw 70,000 patrons and $10,000,000 in expenditures to the city and county during its first year, including at least a 10-percent increase in local hotel occupancy rates. The spending could generate $400,000 in local tax revenues and an additional $100,000 in state sales tax.

Economically, the center will help Bartow County and Cartersville capture business and retain dollars spent in connection with that activity.

The Clarence Brown Conference Center, named in honor of Bartow's current commissioner, could accommodate more than 2,000 people in 15 rental spaces at one time, and contains several meeting areas -- nearly 13,000 square feet of divisible space in the Etowah Ballroom which has audio conferencing capabilities and four large-format presentation screens; Carter Hall, a 300-seat auditorium with audio conferencing and audio-visual presentation support; six fixed-wall classrooms and a 3,000-square-foot multipurpose hall that divides into three spaces, each of which is equipped with a fully interactive smart board; and the board room, which offers video conferencing with space for 30 people.

In addition to cutting-edge technology to support an array of functions, the 'green' facility was planned in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, guidelines for environmentally responsible construction. They measure building sustainability in five design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

Jessica Loeding, managing editor, and Brande Poulnot, former staff writer, contributed to this article.