The campus, slated to be open by the end of 2015, is expected to create 350 jobs by the time its five-year, three-phase plan is complete. Located on approximately 120 acres, the campus will produce a variety of products, including cushion vinyl for commercial and residential use. The Belgium-based company’s site is situated directly across from the Highland 75 industrial park on land owned by Anheuser-Busch.
Memorandums of understanding were fast-tracked Monday morning in a series of meetings at Tellus Science Museum, with the Bartow-Cartersville Joint Development Authority, Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor and the Cartersville City Council all approving the agreement. According to attorney Keith Lovell, the agreement allows for a 15-year real estate abatement and 10-year property abatement.
Lovell later said Beaulieu did not press for a school tax abatement, citing their desire to become part of the community.
Such a mutual feeling of goodwill between the company and the local governments was cited throughout the morning as officials moved through their respective votes.
“It wasn’t that many years ago we wondered why the phone wasn’t ringing,” said Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini. “There’s actually a few projects we kind of turned our nose up to, and I think we’re being rewarded for it now by getting companies that want to be a part of us. They want to come to our community to bring quality jobs and further diversify what is our really strong family of industry.”
Taylor thanked the legions of volunteers and economic development officials at both the local and state levels for their work on the project.
“We appreciate all the people who worked on this project. It’s going to be great for our community. ... Thanks for coming and thanks for all you folks in this room that did a lot of work on this, and especially thanks to the volunteers in this room,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t get paid and they spend a lot of time working for this community, and I really want to express my gratitude with those folks and these folks who are sitting at this table. They just worked extra hard.”
Following the MOU approvals, local officials, Beaulieu corporate officers and economic development officials welcomed Gov. Nathan Deal and proceeded to an official announcement.
“This is indeed a great city, it is a great county and this project that we’re here [for] today is evidence of the fact, first of all, the city and county working together,” Deal said. “I think the leadership at both of those levels of local government pull that cooperative spirit. You probably have one of the most active local economic development teams that we have anywhere in the state of Georgia. I literally run into them around the globe. They are there and they are working, and they’re not depending on the state. They have initiatives of their own that they’re pursuing. That’s what makes your community strong as well.”
BIG CEO Geert Roelens said after the press conference that Cartersville and Bartow County’s location, experience in manufacturing and its atmosphere played a large role in it selecting the Anheuser-Busch site. However, Roelens also said there was a personal aspect he enjoyed as well.
“You come here for the long [term]. You come here for the 20-plus years, so there has to be a good fit, a cultural fit, a bit of harmony in the way people think, behave, the surroundings,” he said. “I had the opportunity yesterday to spend a bit of time in downtown Cartersville, and this is a great place to be because I lived in the United States about 20 years ago in Arkansas — northwest Arkansas, Rogers — and when I was here yesterday, it reminded me of that period.
“My children were still small at the time and it’s been like a milestone in their life because this is, I would say, the roots of America. This is the local community, which also gives rise to more vibrant locations. You have small shops. At the same time, you have big businesses, or bigger companies coming to this area. Climate is fantastic. Food is great. The contacts, the chemistry, was there from the beginning.”
The manufacturing campus is BIG’s first location in America. Roelens said the expanding American market convinced the company it was time to manufacture product in the region, citing the likelihood of future growth.
The chemistry Roelens described was felt on the side of local government as well, Santini said.
“I think we’ve had companies that have come here in the past that look just [at] what they can take from us. Those kind of negotiations don’t go that well. From the moment they stepped in the door ... as I mentioned in my comments, the more we got to know each other the more we liked each other,” he said.
In terms of the planning to land Beaulieu, Taylor gave credit to Anheuser-Busch and Cartersville Plant Manager Rob Haas for helping the county with site proposals. Though Beaulieu looked at two sites in Bartow County, Taylor said they seemed to return to the Cass-White Road property.
“Well I can tell you about six months ago, when we had our first meeting with Beaulieu, Anheuser-Busch was on board. We had it in Rob’s office, one of the very first meetings, and they were there to help us land this company. From the very start Anheuser-Busch has been a partner, as Rob says, and we did what we had to do and so did they to help land another great company to our community,” Taylor said.
Haas described Anheuser’s role in the proceedings as a small part.
“We’re a partner and we support when we’re needed. The neat thing about Bartow County is the commissioner and the rest of the team here, economic development, the chamber, and then at the state level, there’s such alignment and support of growing in a sustainable way. We help when we can, but we’ve had a very small part to play here,” he said.
Cartersville-Bartow County Economic Development Executive Director Melinda Lemmon said she was “thrilled” with Beaulieu coming to Bartow County, saying she had heard it described as the biggest announcement since Toyo Tire.
“This has been one that we worked on very aggressively from the beginning because we understood the connotation of having a world-class company — although at the time we didn’t exactly know who they were,” she said. “It was an interesting process. But when we learned the scope and the types of products and what their plans were, this whole campus approach, it adds to the diversity of this community ... it adds to the international diversity of Bartow County and it really adds to those quality manufacturing jobs we’re seeking.”