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IDA continues chase of big prospect

POSTED: October 20, 2011 9:29 p.m.

Effingham Industrial Development Authority members will engage a local industrial brokerage to help land a potential prospect.

The IDA, in a 7-0 vote, enacted a commission agreement with Georgia Residential, Commercial and Industrial Real Estate for Project Emerald. Dick Knowlton, who is an officer with Georgia Residential, Commercial and Industrial Real Estate, recused himself from the discussion.

The IDA has talked about the agreement with the brokerage for nearly two months, IDA CEO John Henry said.

"We made sure proper protocol was followed," he said.

Project Emerald is a rail-dependent prospect and also may be in the market for reuse water. The unnamed company is expected to have an investment of $150 million and have employment of 243 jobs, at a rate of $16-$18 per hour.

In a letter last month to the IDA, Knowlton said he did not have any financial stake in the company under the Project Emerald banner and he would excuse himself from any discussions about the prospect. He also stated he would not vote on matters concerning the project.

Should the IDA successfully complete its recruitment of Project Emerald, Knowlton’s firm will receive a 5 percent commission.

"Every broker we have talked to about proj

ects, 5 percent is standard," Henry said.

IDA members, though, also said if another prospect has designs on the parcel Project Emerald is looking at, they may go with the second interest first.

"This does not tie the property up to this one buyer," IDA member Leon Zipperer said.

IDA members also weighed how long the agreement with Georgia Residential, Commercial and Industrial Real Estate should stand.

"We’re not taking the property off the market," said IDA member Jimmy Wells. "I don’t want to put up stop signs for people to try to bring prospects to us."

IDA members agreed to put a one-year time limit on the agreement and will revisit it in six months to see if the prospect is still viable, if no decision has been made by then.

Knowlton and Chap Bennett recused themselves as the IDA discussed selecting The Coastal Bank for its banking services. Knowlton is on the bank’s board of directors, and Bennett is the senior credit officer for the bank.

The IDA had to set up five accounts at The Coastal Bank, some of which are dictated by its bond package.

"I think we have a really good program," Henry said. "We have services back that we had lost. We’ve got good checks and balances. I think we have a good scenario."

Among the services the IDA regained was direct deposit and the Automated Clearing House. The IDA also will have the IronKey service, a secure online banking portal.

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