Investments, closures top Bartow County business stories of 2011
by Matt Shinall
Dec 27, 2011 | 2635 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Business and community leaders listen to Chamber of Commerce President Joe Frank Harris Jr. last spring at the kickoff of the Buy Bartow-Work Bartow campaign. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
Business and community leaders listen to Chamber of Commerce President Joe Frank Harris Jr. last spring at the kickoff of the Buy Bartow-Work Bartow campaign. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
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At the beginning of the year representatives from LakePoint Sports hosted a town hall meeting to inform the public about the project and answer questions. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
At the beginning of the year representatives from LakePoint Sports hosted a town hall meeting to inform the public about the project and answer questions. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
slideshow
Business and industry news in Bartow County covered a wide array of topics throughout 2011 from the closure of a long-time community financial institution to the announcement and progression of aggressive growth measures.

Growth announcements from Toyo Tire and Anheuser-Busch made the list as well as the continued work at the county's largest project -- LakePoint Sporting Community and Town Center. Alongside those mountain-top news headlines is found the closing of Bartow County Bank and its assumption by Hoschston-based Hamilton State Bank.

Rounding out the list of Bartow County's top five business stories for the year of 2011 is the naming of Joe Frank Harris Jr. as the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO and his efforts to stimulate the local economy through the Buy Bartow-Work Bartow campaign.

Toyo Tire signs bond resolution for future expansion

Gov. Nathan Deal was on hand at a Cartersville signing ceremony in July authorizing bond capacity for possible expansions by Toyo Tire.

The Cartersville-Bartow County Joint Development Authority entered into an agreement with Toyo increasing bond capacity to $910 million with aims of adding 470 new jobs over the next 10 years.

Japan-based Toyo Tire requested the increased bond capacity last year for eventual and gradual expansions of the Toyo Tire North American Headquarters in White.

The July agreement signing won the Cartersville-Bartow JDA state recognition in September for 2011 Deal of the Year from the Georgia Economic Developers Association.

Beginning production in 2006, Toyo Tire's Bartow County facility became the company's first consumer tire manufacturing plant outside of Japan, now employing more than 1,000 people. Increased bond capacity will allow Toyo to grow to nearly 1,400 employees by 2020.

"Our state still has an unacceptably high unemployment rate and job creation is my number one goal in this administration. So, being able to say that you have numbers of this size is a great step in the right direction," Deal said.

According to officials present at the signing, Toyo has contributed $50 million to the local economy in payroll alone since their opening. Apart from direct employment figures associated with future expansion, the increased bond capacity allows for a potential capital investment nearing $1 billion.

In bringing Toyo to northwest Georgia, Jim Hawk, president of Toyo Tire North American Manufacturing, said the company made a "bold move." The White location again had to prove its worth in the process of determining future growth as the local facility vied internationally against other Toyo plants for investment dollars, including recent expansions and acquisitions into China and Malaysia.

"We found ourselves in a unique position of competing internally for capital investment, so the Joint Development Authority, without hesitation, stepped up and revised and simplified the existing memorandum of understanding and, in a very short period of time, created a much higher level of industrial revenue bonds," Hawk said. "That money will not be spent immediately, but over time, it will incrementally allow us to make quick decisions and continue to grow and it gives our parent company the confidence that the community and the state of Georgia are behind us."

LakePoint project continues groundwork

Developers of LakePoint Sporting Community and Town Center, the 1,400-acre sports complex slated for construction in Emerson, entered the year with a roar but has made slow progress since.

January brought with it a town hall meeting in which members of the audience viewed a presentation and asked questions of the representatives. Soon after, critical paperwork -- the Development of Regional Impact -- was completed and deemed to be "in the best interest of the region and therefore of the state."

Most recently, a construction site module was erected on Old Highway 41 overlooking much of the Emerson proposed site.

At January's town hall, groundbreaking was estimated to begin in late spring, with the first pitch tossed out in October 2012 -- prior to that, the estimate for a first pitch was June 2012. Groundbreaking, yet to begin, is now expected to commence in spring of 2012 with first pitch in 2013.

Anchored by Perfect Game USA, the North Atlanta Soccer Association and LB3 Lacrosse, the development will sit on almost 1,400 acres along Interstate 75. Featuring three miles of frontage along I-75, the main entrance will be along Red Top Mountain Road, with the Red Top Mountain and Emerson-Allatoona interchanges included.

With an expected build-out of five to 10 years, officials said what will be included in the final development remains to be seen. Those expressing interest in location to Dream Parks at LakePoint include medical and educational facilities, retailers, supermarkets, hotel chains and other sports facilities.

At January's town hall, LakePoint partner Judy Sparks said she was receiving about 100 requests a day from applicants and contractors interested in employment.

She said resumes are filed by category of interest, with locals given top-billing. "If you are a local citizen, your resume goes to the top of the file."

Interested contractors and applicants are asked to visit www.lakepointsports.com to apply.

Bartow County Bank fails

Rumors swirled for months that Bartow County Bank was shutting its doors. This spring, the bank was assumed by Hamilton State Bank in Hoschton.

Representatives of the FDIC swept in at closing time on April 15, acting as receiver after the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance closed BCB.

The four branches of Bartow County Bank -- the main office on East Church Street and three other branches in Cartersville and Acworth -- reopened the following day as branches of Hamilton State Bank.

Bartow County Bank's demise was a long time coming. The almost 40-year-old banking business had felt the effects of a down economy like so many others.

In 2010, the bank entered into a consent order with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance in an effort to strengthen its financial position.

The consent order said the bank agreed to work under regulator advisement to continue to raise its Tier 1 capital to at least 8 percent and its total risk-based capital to at least 10 percent, among other changes.

Bartow County Bank's decline in performance was related to the economic downturn marked with declined real estate values and high unemployment rates.

The bank underwent capital-raising efforts with private investors as well as businesses within the community following the consent agreement, but those efforts were not enough.

"The bank has had some financial difficulties for some time, they entered into a consent order back in April of 2010, and due to the weakened economy, it just overwhelmed the management staff here and the bank fell on hard times," said Eric R. Raines, Senior Ombudsman Specialist for the FDIC. "And, as a result, the Georgia Department of Banking stepped in and declared them insolvent and appointed the FDIC the receiver.

"Some of the problems had to do with a poor real estate economy. The bank engaged in a high concentration of community commercial real estate lending; they were high industrial end acquisition and development loans, and due to the weakened economy and declining real estate market, it negatively impacted the ability of the bank to stay afloat."

Formed in 1974 by a group of local businessmen and once billed as Bartow County's largest bank, Bartow County Bank lost more than $11.6 million in 2009 and slipped to adequately capitalized from a well-capitalized status by the end of that year.

Anheuser-Busch to invest $34 million in Cartersville brewery

Cartersville's Anheuser-Busch brewery will see improvements over the next few years thanks to corporate-wide investments totaling more than $1 billion.

Local upgrades in the amount of $34 million include capital investments made last year through those projected into 2014. General Manager Rob Haas pinpointed three key areas of concentration for investment: modernization, innovation and conservation.

Anheuser-Busch's Cartersville brewery is a leader in conservation efforts. The Georgia site recycles 99.8 percent of waste and 100 percent of water used in the production process outperforming every facility in the international corporation in water usage and reduction.

"We use less water than any brewery in the entire company. That's something we're very proud of," Haas said. "And we're working very hard to reduce fuel and electricity usage. It's a win-win for us, it's a win-win for the environment."

Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle visited the brewery to see how the investments will affect operations. Highlighting the importance of manufacturers and capital investment, Cagle commended Anheuser-Busch for upgrades increasing conservation as well as actions to improve efficiency and introduce new packaging and brand innovations.

"When private industry like Anheuser-Busch makes a significant corporate capital investment, it leads to job creation and right now, with the economy being where it is, it is critical for corporations like this to be making significant investments," Cagle said. "The other thing I think that is important about today is the significant investment that they have made in terms of sustainability and making their footprint smaller. They're returning and utilizing the resource in a very efficient and effective manner and that shows good corporate stewardship on their part."

With attention turned to corporate investments, Haas took time to thank those responsible for daily operations.

"We have such a great group of employees, a lot of the Anheuser-Busch family have been here since we started, they understand the process, they understand the quality and the importance," Haas said. "They're highly skilled, they're very motivated and engaged and they're the backbone of what we do -- they are our most important asset."

Chamber names new president, unveils Buy Bartow campaign

In February, Joe Frank Harris Jr. took over the office of Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO in an interim capacity, effectively raising membership and revenue. Just more than six months later, the chamber board of directors followed the recommendation of a selection committee to name Harris as permanent chamber president.

"I don't think there's ever been a job I've wanted more or I've felt more responsible to do a good job at because I just love Bartow County so much and there's so much to do," Harris said. "The chamber is a great place to bring the community together. It's a positive force."

Harris is a Bartow County native, graduating in 1982 from Cartersville High School and continuing at the University of Georgia, where he obtained degrees in finance and law. He practiced law in Atlanta before returning to Cartersville to do the same. For the past 10 years, Harris has been employed with Aflac. In 1997, Harris served the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce during which time many accomplishments were made, including the construction of the current chamber offices now owned debt free.

While still interim president, Harris began a revitalization of the Buy Bartow campaign, adding an initiative to encourage job growth and hope.

The Buy Bartow-Work Bartow campaign, encourages local businesses to hire Bartow County residents. For each new hire, a bell hanging in the Bartow County Government Annex was rung.

The initiative to stimulate the economy and return money spent to the local area reached its initial goal in October and held a celebration of that feat earlier this month. During this ceremony, community leaders marked a new goal: hiring 1,000 Bartow County residents.