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Chamber gives upbeat economic report to area leaders
Expansion, construction fueling local job market
Jobseekers wait in line to see representatives of Wrigley’s at the Gainesville Civic Center during the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual job fair and expo in April. About 900 attended the event which featured 60 employers. - photo by File photo

Jobs seem to be breaking out all over, thanks to industry expansions, new construction and an apparently recharged Hall County economy.

“Everybody in our construction trades … is really busy at the moment,” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve got almost 1.2 million square feet of commercial and industrial space under construction right now.

“In the long term — and that’s what we really measure at the chamber — that (work translates to) 1,400 new jobs and $204 million in capital investment.”

Evans, along with Shelley Davis, the chamber’s vice president overseeing existing industry, gave the glowing report to the Joint Municipal Association, a group of area city leaders, meeting Monday night at Gillsville City Park.

They distributed copies of the chamber’s 2015 Economic Development Report, which details progress made in various sectors, including housing, retail, education and health care.

One of the key examples of industrial growth includes Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, a Flowery Branch chewing gum plant planning an expansion that will mean 170 new jobs for the area.

When completed, the expansion will make the plant “the largest … chewing gum manufacturer in the world,” the report states.

Another major job producer has been Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s new Braselton campus, which opened April 1. The 100-bed hospital already is expanding to including obstetrics services.

Evans noted that the area around the new South Hall hospital — or Ga. 347/Friendship Road at Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway — is turning into a medical community, although “significantly smaller than (the one) in Gainesville.”

Still, taken together, all the health care spots in the county account for 13,000 jobs.

“And it’s a pretty meaningful employment base,” as the average salary for that sector is about $50,000, Evans said.

He also noted a couple other large expansions, including a recent announcement by Performance Foodservice Milton that it plans to build a 521,135-square-foot warehouse off Old Oakwood Road near Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood.

That project is triggering an effort by Oakwood officials to seek grants that would help with improvements to Old Oakwood Road, City Manager Stan Brown said.

Kubota Manufacturing of America off Ramsey Road in Gainesville is involved in one of the area’s largest expansions — a  $100 million plant off Ga. 365 in North Hall, adding more than 600 jobs.

Simpson’s Trucking & Grading in Gainesville “is going to just about move their equipment from Kubota down to (Performance Foodservice),” Evans said.

And that’s “exciting to see,” he added.

“Those are local jobs that are staying local,” Evans said.

Forging relationships with existing industries is key, he said.

“It’s so much easier to work with a company on its expansion needs … when you’ve already got a relationship,” Evans said.

He also referred to construction taking place on North Lake Square, a planned 200,000-square-foot shopping center off Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway and near Ahaluna Drive.

The center is expected to feature Hobby Lobby, Chipotle and Academy Sports + Outdoors, all  slated to open this fall or winter.

Overall, times are a lot different now than during and in the aftermath of the 2007-09 Great Recession, especially in the housing sector.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said the city issued one residential permit in the first six months of 2010, compared to 188 in the first six months of this year.

“That’s huge growth,” he said.


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