Rusty Haygood, the economic development director for Oconee County, spoke to a meeting in Athens of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The group met in the Board Room of the UGA Administration Building on Wednesday morning.
Haygood outlined the recipe for success that led to Caterpillar deciding to build a manufacturing plant on 200 acres, in an 800 acre site, in Athens Clarke County, Oconee County and the City of Bogart. It started in November with a call from officials with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, telling them of the corporation's interest in coming to the area.
"It was a great project that went at lightning speed," he said. "We knew that if we were going to get this, we had to work together."
Building a plant in three jurisdictions might seem daunting, but representatives from the three "checked their egos at the door," Haygood said, and created an overlay district that subjects the 200 acres to the same set of rules.
The two counties agreed that the costs of helping to site the plant couldn't fall on one or the other. They would split the costs 50-50 and the revenues as well. When asked what the area should be called, those involved had a quick response: The Community.
What's happened so far?
Haygood said that 130 to 140 acres in the middle of the site have been cleared. It can't be seen from the roadway but it's there, and by the end of next week, the remaining acres will be cleared. The company is moving quickly, and will soon submit formal plans.
They have hired 30 people for the leadership team thus far, some of them local, some not, all working from home on laptops right now. The second half of 2012 may see more hires, but 30 is all for the first half, he said.
Attention has broadened to include on companies who will supply Caterpillar with the materials the plant will need. Haygood said it would great to have the suppliers also be on the Clarke-Oconee site, though this may not be possible. Caterpillar is contacting existing Georgia industries to determine if they can supply the needed goods.
Athens Tech is going to be providing office space, Haygood said. The school is also building a training center that should be ready in the summer. Caterpillar officials were happy to know that a complete engineering program is returning to UGA, and that the T-SPLOST initiative is on the ballot for July.