Timber crews and logging trucks have been massaging the outskirts of a forested tract in southeast Georgia for weeks, leaving curious neighbors wondering what might be coming to their working-class area.
The answer came in a regulatory permit filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Volvo is scouting the 1,900-acre site about 30 minutes west of Savannah to build its first U.S. auto plant.
Georgia and South Carolina are on the Swedish automaker’s short list for a $500 million factory, and both states are maneuvering to land the plant and its 4,000 jobs. Volvo’s decision is expected within weeks.
South Carolina has put forward a site in Berkeley County, which sits just north of Charleston and about 125 miles from the Georgia site.
The Georgia permit was filed by a newly created development authority that wants to construct a “megasite manufacturing facility” at the Bryan County tract.
The site includes more than 1,000 acres of pine forests and about 300 acres of wetlands that are near roads and rail lines. The permit includes more than a dozen facilities along Interstate 16 and a rail line spur that would run adjacent to the new plant.
A site study found the land includes gopher tortoises, considered an endangered species in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana but not in Georgia. The permit application said the state would “undertake voluntary relocation efforts” to move the tortoises to other habitats.
Both states are making moves to pave the way for the plant, which would mark a landmark – if costly – victory. The automaker would likely require a bounty of incentives, including grants, tax credits, infrastructure improvements and job training assistance.
As reported previously in The State newspaper, South Carolina hopes to borrow as much as $150 million to land the deal. Two key agencies called emergency closed-door meetings last week to discuss an economic development project.
Georgia officials have approved a budget that includes $40 million for state “deal-closing” funds, legislation that makes it easier for state agencies to buy vehicles made in Georgia and an overhaul of a state environmental commission that Gov. Nathan Deal has said could make it easier to land major projects.