The Metter City Council and the Candler County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to approve an agreement between the Candler County Industrial Development Authority and Doowon.
Governor Kemp announced the 142,300 square foot facility Tuesday, stating an expected 200 jobs are on their way to Candler County on a 14.2 acre lot in the Candler County Industrial Park. The park is owned by the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and the property will be leased to Doowon. You can read more on the announcement from Tuesday here.
Like most economic development projects, this project comes at a cost to the local community via agreements made with various development authorities. In the case of Doowon, that cost includes the waiver of fees, tax abatements, the taking on of bonds by the IDA, and more.
In Metter, however, the IDA provided most of the information to the city in the final hours with very little information about the parameters of the contract, outside of a forum that yielded in-depth answers to questions, and in a surprise to most of the elected officials.
Metter City Council Discussion
Mayor Ed Boyd commenced the discussion on the agenda item of ‘a proposal from the Industrial Development Authority’ without naming the company and without presenting the contents of the proposal. After a motion and a second were made to consider the proposal, he deferred to City Administrator Carter Crawford.
Crawford said he’d only been given the documents that morning [Monday]. Crawford also declined to mention the company name, saying only that it was a ‘$30 million Hyundai supplier.
“Gonna eventually have 200 jobs and the IDA will be securing the bonds, approximately $30 million that the um, the um, the Industrial [sic] will have to pay back. They’re 10-year graduated tax abatement and it’s uh, first three years is no tax payment, then it starts at 25% on up and the 11th year starts at 100%. But if you, it does have provisions that they have goals they have to set and if they don’t set those, meet those goals, then they’ve got to do payback. You know, they gotta pay taxes. They also have a, course I know what they did here, they um they got to have so many jobs and in order to, um, uh, be safe, they said they’re going to have nine jobs in 25 and 100 in 26, and 120 in 27. Which more than likely, they’re gonna have 200 jobs way before then because they gotta be in full production but this is what companies normally do. They project their jobs low so they won’t have to, get caught not making, not making the projections. So this is a Memorandum of Understanding that is very similar to the one we did for DAS. The city will be…uh…uh…waiving $74,000 in fees but there again when you’re looking at a $30 million investment, eventually, plus 200 jobs, you know, waiving that $74,000 is well worth it in the long run. That’s about all the information that I have. They are…what do they do coolant or something? They don’t…I thought they…I really thought they’d supplement DAS, but they don’t, they do a whole different thing.”
Mayor Ed Boyd said the company would be a Tier II supplier for Hyundai and would have low water and sewage usage based on the lines he’s seen going into the property. “It will not put any stress on our utilities,” Boyd said.
Councilman James McKie was the first to say he had concerns, citing unplanned and unmeasured growth.He referenced surrounding counties which have allowed everyone to build without bringing infrastructure up to par. He said it has led to increased traffic, a diminished quality of life for everyone, and a lacking labor market in Candler County for the existing manufacturers before even considering Doowon.
“Just the other day, I was informed that the mega plant [Hyundai] is trying to recruit people from out of state because the local area doesn’t have enough labor force to fill all of their positions. They’re actually using some of the high school’s [Effingham] welding lab to try to train people rather quickly instead of going through the tech schools because they don’t have enough welders to do what they need to do,” McKie said.
McKie also said Lytell cannot handle the commercial vehicles that both DAS and Doowon are going to bring. “It’s going to have to be widened and built up and we’re giving all these abatements so the city taxpayers are now having to foot the bill for all of this.” McKie also lamented that the city’s abatements were initially instituted to help small businesses, not large corporations.
Finally, McKie vocalized his concerns about truck routes going through residential areas and neighborhoods to get to the industrial park which City Administrator Crawford interrupted to say was only ‘speculative.’
“You’ve got to look at the opportunity you’ve got now,” Crawford told council. “Yeah, there’s gonna be upfront costs but it’s going to be good for the community. The county is meeting now to pass this.”
An Opportunity to “Double the City’s Tax Base”
“At 200 jobs, you’re looking to diversify your industries and the more different ones you have, the better off you’re going to be in the long run,” Mayor Boyd said. “These particular jobs and these particular businesses are probably going to be here for 50 years.It’s not like the printing business we got back in the 80s that computers did away with and, uh, then the cut & sew that went overseas. We’ve gone through cycles of getting and losing different industries here. The electric car industry, the entire industry is retooling all over and for us to be able to locate two of these businesses that are going to be players in that I think bodes well for the future.”
“We have an opportunity to double the city’s tax base in two or three years when you start combining all the other stuff that’s happening. You talk about not wanting this or that – it’s coming whether you want it or not,” Boyd continued.
“That’s kind of the concern – to not let it get out of hand,” Councilman Gregg Stewart said. “And I was curious about what kind of pollution it might put out”
“I don’t know of any. I mean, do you want motel people or do you want manufacturing?” Mayor Boyd said. “These are good jobs for our area and they’re going to have to compete with all the other businesses for these jobs so they’re not going to be people making $9 an hour out there.”
“Yeah they will,” McKie said. “I see it happening every single day in Effingham.”
“They’re not going to get anybody to work for that,” Boyd replied. They can go next door and make $20, so it’s not gonna happen.”
McKie replied, “They’re coming from outside. Where are they going to live? We don’t have any housing.”
“They knew that when they brought Hyundai here. We’re gonna have 100,000 people moving to the area and they’re gonna be moving here pretty quick,” Boyd answered. “We’re gonna have additional housing, we’ve already got some housing proposed and we’ll have a lot more.”
“Well that’s the problem because you just mentioned that there’s proposed housing that I know absolutely nothing about, so, you know, we’re literally going into this blind at the last minute,” McKie told the council. “I’m not saying it’s a bad deal, but it’s happening too fast and we’ve got to get the infrastructure in place.”
Concerns Over Prospects Kept Quiet
One council member said it’s hard to represent the people when the information is withheld until the last minute or “you’re right here at the barrel of the gun and you’ve got to pull the trigger immediately. It’s a trust issue…because there’s a secret society. It’s concerning.”
When asked why so little information was provided to council, Mayor Ed Boyd said, “You got it because we should have gotten it and we didn’t. We would have sent it to you if we’d had it, but we didn’t have it. I didn’t get a copy of this until today at 3:00. I had no idea what was going on….”
“She [the IDA director] could be speaking to ten different people and we don’t know about it. I was asked to write a statement on behalf of the city welcoming this new industry and I did not know the name of the industry. And I’m sitting in closed sessions in the industrial authority meetings. That’s how secret it is. So, you’re not going to get that information until the last minute because I had to convince Hannah that we could have a meeting tonight instead of tomorrow and that it would not get out. You know, if this gets outside of this room, and somebody picks it up and puts it on the internet before the Governor makes the announcement, we’ll never have another anything from the state of Georgia for who knows how long. So that’s the game we’re playing here…She told me that the county was going to take it up at 9:00 tonight because they usually have a three hour meeting. So this stuff is highly confidential and so confidential that I didn’t even know the name of the company and I go to the meetings. But, you know, I can’t talk about it and I can’t do any of this unless somebody sends it to me and tells me I can do it.”
Boyd told council that most cities give up much more than Metter was in this instance and that Hannah Mullins with the IDA had the sole authority to negotiate these contracts with developers and businesses.
You can listen to the full audio below.
Memorandum of Understanding
- The IDA, which is a public entity funded by taxpayers, will issue economic development revenue bonds in the amount of $33 million with a stipulation that additional bonds may be issued if necessary to complete the project.
- Doowon must pay $41,250 in administrative fees and $75,000 in legal fees at the time the bonds are issued. The bonds must be closed before 6/30/24
- The estimated cost of the Premises is approximately $1,412,900 and is intended to be financed with proceeds of the Bonds that will be taken out by the IDA.
- The estimated cost of the Improvements is $17,880,000. The estimated cost of equipment is $17,880,000. Both will be shouldered by the IDA and leased to Doowon.
- Jobs are expected to have ages between $20/hour and $43/hour
- Timeline to Phase Jobs In
- i. 9 jobs in 2025
- ii. 100 jobs in 2026
- iii. 107 jobs in 2027
- iv. 150 jobs in 2028
- v. 200 jobs in 2029
- The City of Metter will waive ~$74,000 in permitting fees
Doowon has an ‘out’ in the event that any title defects, environmental concerns, or ‘any other conditions’ that impact the use of the property arise.
Request for Public Documents
TheGeorgiaVirtue.com filed a public information request seeking the complete agreement with the IDA, the City of Metter, and Candler County on Tuesday. Officials with the City of Metter directed TheGeorgiaVirtue to the IDA, saying the city only had ‘one page’ of the contract, which was a signature page and that everything else was in the possession of the IDA.
When pressed about whether or not the council had the full contract, the city official said that council members were provided ‘a summary of the document (MOU) from the IDA Director Hannah Mullins before they voted on it.”
A request was simultaneously filed for the same documents with Candler County and the county provided the documents within an hour.
You can read the complete agreement here.
City of Metter Vote
Ultimately, the Metter City Council voted 3-1. Rashida Taylor, Vitoria Gaitten, and Chyrileen Kilcrease voted for the measure, James McKie opposed the measure with Gregg Stewart abstaining.
County Commission Vote
Across town, the county Commissioners also took up the vote on the same agreement. There, the vote was 3-2 with Commissioners Hendrix and Robinson voting against the measure.