The Development Authorities of Oconee and Athens-Clarke counties are purchasing a portion of the privately owned 940-acre Orkin tract where Ga. Highway 316 and US Highway 78 meet and will lease* about 250 acres to heavy machine maker Caterpillar for a manufacturing facility, Oconee County Commissioner Jim Luke said on Friday.
Caterpillar will bring about 1,400 jobs, Luke said.
The counties are agreeing to provide road structure and tax abatements as an incentive, splitting the costs 50-50, Luke said. Financial details are expected to be released later today.
Luke said the land portion of the approximately 250 acres is slightly larger in Athens-Clarke and the building will be slightly larger in Oconee. Oconee will provide water and sewer service because it can provide services more cheaply than Athens-Clarke, Luke said, but costs associated will also be split.
The intergovernmental agreement covers the entire tract of land and will be in place for any future development on the tract's other acreage, he said. About two-thirds of the land is in Oconee and the other third in Athens-Clarke, but some of Oconee's land may not be as "usable," he explained.
Luke said the counties have been working on a very short timeline.
"This was a miracle that this thing was pulled off," he said. "We got into the game very late and we're almost kind of lucky that we even knew that this thing was going on.
"As I understand it, [Caterpillar] was very impressed about how well we were able to put a package together, and we caught up with a lot of the other potential sites very quickly," he said. "[The Orkin tract] met a lot of their engineering needs."
Caterpilllar has tentively scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony for March 15, Luke said, and infrastructure work must be fast-tracked. "We've got to really go fast and hopefully get a lot of people back to work in the construction industry."
Athens Mayor Nancy Denson, Oconee County Comission Chairman Melvin Davis, Commissioner Chuck Horton and staff traveled to Atlanta with Oconee Sheriff Scott Berry to the Capitol for Gov. Nathan Deal's 10 a.m. announcement.
Oconee County Clerk Gina Lindsey Hansford said staff has been working toward this goal since the week before Christmas.
"There's been a lot of hard work put into it, so this is a very nice payoff," she said. "It's going to be the biggest project we'll work on in our careers."
Oconee Commissioners and the Development Authority are slated to meet at 2 p.m. for a final vote on a financing plan, Luke said.
*According to a news release issued later Friday morning, "Oconee and Athens-Clarke Counties' Industrial Development Authorities agreed to purchased the site with the support of both local governments and to transfer ownershop to the company over a 20-year period."
Correction: The counties are purchasing only a portion of the Orkin tract (265 acres), not the entire tract as originally reported. The article has been changed.