Executive Director Peter Cervelli updated Dade's Industrial Development Authority (IDA) on Monday about progress on the new Vanguard Trailer plant that IDA brought to Dade. Of the 400 jobs Vanguard promised the county, about 170 have now been filled, he said.
"Hiring is a challenge," said Cervelli. "Drugs are an issue."
Cervelli said there had been "some miscommunication" about health care for employees at the plant--where to send them for treatment of minor injuries received at work and how much time off they should be given for such instances. A new human resources manager is due to start work on Dec. 16, he said, and a meeting is also planned between the plant and educators on how Dade High School and Vanguard might better cooperate.
Cervelli touched briefly on the transit situation at the new plant: About 10 completed trailers are currently leaving the plant each day, and about nine truckloads of material arriving. "They have some trouble turning left on Highway 11," he said.
Cervelli also updated IDA board members on expenses relating to bringing the plant to Dade. "I got a bill from the water company for Vanguard for about $100,000," he said. "I almost had a heart attack."
But the bill was taken care of by the county, said Cervelli. The invoice was for running a water line into the plant from Highway 11, which entailed getting a pipe under the railroad tracks that lie between the road and the plant--"That was where the expense was at, boring the railroad," explained Dade Water Authority manager Doug Anderton after the meeting--but Dade County had already agreed to pay for that with SPLOST (special project local option sales tax) money. "The last SPLOST, there was I think like a million dollars dedicated for emergency projects," said Anderton. "This fit in that category."
Vanguard was enticed to build in Dade by numerous local and state deal sweeteners including free land, tax abatement, job credits and $1 million in cash from Georgia. IDA initially undertook to provide road infrastructure but both city and county have contributed heavily in that regard, furnishing funds as well as manpower in building and paving roads.
IDA is an autonomous, semi-governmental body initially endowed by SPLOST funds from the county, tasked with bringing industry and jobs to the county and empowered for that purpose to grant tax abatements to companies and to issue with them bonds--basically, borrowing money for them at local government's lower, tax-exempt rates. In that regard, Cervelli mentioned that IDA's $10 million bond issue for Vanguard might have a phase 2 of the same amount if, as he said has been recently discussed, the company decided to bring certain manufacturing processes "back from China."
Also in that regard, Cervelli complained gently to the board that a similar bond arrangement with Lake Region's Trenton plant required him to spend a serious amount of IDA time reviewing and approving purchase equipment orders. "We own all the equipment based on the way the proposal is structured," he explained to The Planet after the meeting. Not only is IDA the landlord for Lake Region, on paper owning its building and leasing it to the company, he said, but: "There's like $9 million in moneys set aside to buy equipment and so those are the POs I'm approving."
But there's no rest for the weary: Cervelli must go on approving all the equipment orders as long as IDA money is paying for it, which he said would be about 10 years, "until the bond-issued money is all used and when the tax abatement's over."
Cervelli told the board that IDA had had to give up a $316,000 grant it had gotten to help JMS Metals with equipment it would need after it had built a proposed rail spur. When the company decided against building the rail spur after all, he said, the money had to go back.
Cervelli got approval from the IDA board to offer RC Trailer a two-year option--"just to see how interested they are"--on six acres in the industrial park the company had looked at previously. The option would cost $5000 and could be used toward purchase price should the company decide to buy. "I think they really will," said IDA Chairman Nathan Wooten.
Cervelli also got approval to pay up to $2180 to have IDA land near Vanguard surveyed with a view to listing it as available acreage for sale. He said there were no offers on the now-vacant Shaw plant to report.
He said IDA's so-far-so-good audit was still pending and that he had not paid two invoices from Norfolk Southern for $6714 and $76,831 and would not until the railroad had finished billing IDA for work on the railway crossing near Vanguard. "Then we'll maybe deal with it as a package," he said.
IDA meets the fourth Monday of each month at 3 p.m. in the Dade Administrative Building. It will not meet in December.