Editor's note: This is one in a series of articles reflecting on positive change in Moultrie and Colquitt County in 2017. See the column at left for links to other stories in the series.
MOULTRIE, Ga. – It has been a good economic year in Colquitt County in 2017; 2018 has the potential to be a great year.
So says Darrell Moore, president of the Colquitt County Economic Development Authority. And he has some encouraging numbers to back up the assertion.
In December alone, the American Osteopathic Association gave its blessing to the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine’s plan to build a college in Colquitt County and the EDA was awarded a $1,860,871 grant to build an “incubator” business structure at the Citizen Business Park on the Quitman Highway.
Also this year, National Beef broke ground on a 40,000-square-foot addition to its Moultrie plant; Canfor Southern Pine, formerly Beadles Lumber Co., announced it will make a $28 million expansion to its Moultrie facility; and Broadleaf Trucking of Moultrie said the family-owned company will spend $2.5 million to purchase new trucks and hire more drivers.
Also, when Surcheros Fresh Grill, a Tex-Mex restaurant located on the south end of the Parkway Centre, anchored by Publix, opened in July, it completed the shopping center’s first phase, which includes some 200 jobs.
Those announcements just add to the rosy outlook.
Moore says the county’s unemployment rate is at a healthy 4.1 percent.
“And our workforce is growing monthly,” he said, saying there are 22,000 people employed in the county. “We’ve been growing at a healthy rate.”
Moore also said that the EDA is working on several other “viable projects” that could come to fruition in 2018.
The four-laning of Georgia Highway 133 between Moultrie and Valdosta, expected to be completed sometime in 2018, also will complement Colquitt County’s economic development efforts.
“Direct connection to the interstate will definitely be a benefit for us,” Moore said.
Moore also credited a concerted effort among governmental agencies for the recent successes.
“We’ve received a lot of support from both the city and the county,” he said.
Perhaps the most encouraging economic news came in early December when it was announced that the AOA, the PCOM’s accrediting agency, signed off on the plan to build a medical college in Colquitt County.
Estimates are that the school will have an annual economic impact of some $90 million or more.
The plan is to have the school open in August 2019 with some 22 staff members and 55 students, who will take part in a four-year program. Those numbers are expected to grow.
Moore noted that the college will offer higher-end wages for administration, faculty and staff.
Colquitt Regional Medical Center Administrator Jim Matney said the Colquitt County location means students from Thomasville, Albany, Valdosta, Tifton and other areas in southwest Georgia will not have to drive much more than 45 miles to attend classes.
The location and design of the 75,000-square-foot facility are still being worked on. Some four locations are reportedly being considered.
Groundbreaking could begin as soon as early spring.
Moore said having the college in Colquitt County will make it easier to recruit and retain physicians for southwest Georgia.
Local agencies put in $3 million to make the project a reality. The EDA put in $1.5 million; Moultrie City Council added $500,000; and the Colquitt County Commission chipped in $1 million.
The National Beef 40,000-square-foot expansion will make it, according to the company’s CEO and President Tim Klein, “one of the premium consumer-ready facilities in the country.”
The expansion is expected to add 100 jobs to the 300 people already employed there.
The company had grown to some 450 workers in 2013, but that number dropped last year when Walmart did not renew its contract.
National Beef’s investment is expected to be more than $30 million and will include plant expansion and new processing and packaging equipment.
The company is expected to begin hiring in the third quarter of next year.
The current facility opened in 2001 as the first beneficiary of the One Georgia EDGE Grant.
The Canfor expansion is expected to result in 10 new jobs at the sawmill, 30 support jobs and some 60 construction jobs.
The company has purchased land adjoining the northeast Moultrie facility for the expansion.
Canfor is the second-largest lumber producer in the world.
“We’re excited about where we are right now,” Moore said. “We are trying to take care of existing industry and then be persistent in pursuing new projects.”