LOOKING AHEAD: Economic developments
Each day this week, The Times will previewed coming changes in a top issue in Northeast Georgia. Today, a look at economic developments in the works for 2012.
Business could be bustling in Hall County in the next few years.
The county has seen a surge of business developments recently and that trend is only expected to get better.
"We have, in the last week, been really active in seeing several international subsidiaries make commitments on their projects, so we're expecting those to start off in the first part of 2012," said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
"We've got a lot of good things on the horizon," Evans added.
If those commitments hold true, Hall County Commission Chairman Tom Oliver said he would envision an additional business park being developed.
"I think next year looks pretty strong," Oliver said.
The county's unemployment rate has been on the decline and with more industries coming to the area and "barring a major global event," Evans expects the rate to continue dropping.
Even new businesses that employ small numbers can have a significant impact, Evans said.
"They add up to significant employment numbers and we're seeing the employment trend get better," he said. "The overall trend is really good over the last 24 months."
Northeast Georgia Health System's future hospital in South Hall off Thompson Mill Road is expected to have a huge impact on the region and even spur additional developments in the area. It's expected to be completed in 2015 and bring a heap of jobs.
"That's a great economic development coming to South Hall," Evans said. "That's going to affect Hall County in a positive light - new jobs, new investment and it will spur a lot of economic activity around that hospital."
In the past two years, the county has had 38 new and expanded industries that are expected to create more than 1,400 additional jobs, retain more than 500 jobs and create about $320 million in new capital investment.
The city of Gainesville reached a three-year high for business permits and fees collected, said Rusty Ligon, community development director for the city.
Compared to 2010, business permits have increased 24 percent, new commercial construction has increased 29 percent and there have been 46 new residential permits, compared to one the previous year.
"We anticipate that continuing into next year," Ligon said. "We hope that we'll see even more residential development."
A host of industries have gotten off the ground in the past year and local officials are excited about the potential investment they bring to Hall County.
In September, ZF Wind Power plant officially opened its 250,000-square-foot headquarters and operations center in the new Gainesville Business Park. Two other economic developments, ProCare Rx and Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, will soon begin construction at their respective locations in Gainesville.
Pattillo will join ZF Wind Power in the business park while ProCare Rx broke ground in November on its 395,000-square-foot campus in the area between Candler Road and Interstate 985.
Oliver said it was a positive sign when ZF opted to expand its company in the county.
"Just the mere fact that they already had a company here and were willing to expand is just tremendous for this area," he said.
ProCare could be "a cornerstone" to bringing other industries to the county, Oliver said.
"I think it has staggering potential," he said. "I think we have opportunities to bring our 985 corridor into more of a business corridor."
Other businesses such as Cheddars, Olive Garden, Michaels, Ulta and Aldi have also opened their doors in the past year.
More and more businesses are choosing Hall County as their future homes. Evans credits local officials' ability to sell businesses on the county's potential as a leading Northeast Georgia commerce center, as well as a large number of potential business leaders that reside in the area.
"We're able to draw from the counties to the north of Hall County, as well as our own skilled talent in Hall County ... and we also draw from the metro Atlanta area for positions that might be needed," Evans said.
Oliver credits cooperation between the Gainesville and Hall County leaders, as well as an active chamber and business community.
"That's a beautiful combination," he said.
Pattillo CEO Larry Callahan called the area "one of the hottest economic developments in the Southeast."
The area also has vast potential to fill necessary lower level positions, Evans said.
"Having access to a combination of skilled labor and talent that those subsidiaries are looking for is kind of a rare thing to have in one location," he said.
Roger Burgess, co-founder of ProCare Rx, also credited the rich pool of talent in the area.
"By relocating to Gainesville-Hall County, we are positioning ProCare Rx to retain and recruit the best talent in our industry with the quality of life supported by the lake, the mountains, the schools and the overwhelming sense of kindness we've found in being welcomed by community leadership," Burgess said.
Even with the positive outlook, Evans said there are some challenges the county faces.
"Without progress on the issues of water and transportation, our quality of life will be threatened with growing congestion, low lake levels and water scarcity," he said.