Savannah Economic Development Authority breaks ground on $25 million SPLOST site

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Savannah Economic Development Authority gathered Tuesday with city and county leaders at a mega site in west Chatham County, breaking ground on the Savannah Manufacturing Center.

SEDA is one step closer to the goal to bring manufacturing companies to Savannah. Over the next year, they will be laying the foundation and constructing the barebones of the industrial building space.

"Basically, you want everything ready so that companies can go vertical," said SEDA President and CEO Trip Tollison.

The $25 million-dollar project is the first SEDA project that's being fully funded through SPLOST, the one percent sales tax Chatham County voters approved in 2013.

"We went to the leadership of the county, the leadership of the city and said can we include something that's really going to be unique that's going to add manufacturing jobs to the job base," Tollison said.

"We don't have anything like this," said Mayor Eddie DeLoach. "It's specifically designated for manufacturing which is something we sorely need. We need the jobs."

The 3.5 million square-foot facility is projected to accommodate a dozen companies and could potentially generate 2,000-3,000 jobs.

But this project is among dozens of other city and county projects, like the new arena, that's competing for SPLOST dollars.

"The benefits of using SPLOST money is, it's cash," Tollison said. "There's no debt associated with it when you use SPLOST funds and I always get excited about it because 40 percent of the tax dollars are paid by visitors."

Right now, there's only enough to fund about a third of the total cost. The rest is expected to come through in 2020.  But they are confident about moving forward without waiting for the full amount.

"Is there a risk associated with starting the project before we have the $25 million?" WTOC Elizabeth Rawlins asked Tollison.

"No, the way the SPLOST collections are going there are other things we can do, like long-term debt structuring if we are not able to get those kind of collections," Tollison said. "But the way things are looking, I feel confident that the money will come through and we'll have sufficient funds to finish the project."

Officials tell me three to four companies have shown interest but it's likely they are waiting to see more development here at this site before making a commitment.

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