With confetti raining down among the mist Thursday morning, the Tanger Outlet Center in Pooler opened to cheers, fanfare and television stars.
The outlet mall, with 85 stores, debuted with the help of HGTV’s “Property Brothers,” Jonathan and Drew Scott, and welcomed thousands of eager shoppers.
Ben Carter, the center’s developer, said he recalled leaving a voicemail in August 2012 for Pooler Mayor Mike Lamb.
“I said, ‘we can do a fantastic project,’” Carter remembered.
Carter, Lamb and Pooler City Manager Robert Byrd met in Byrd’s office to discuss Carter’s idea for an outlet center.
“Three people turned into hundred people,” Carter said.
Lamb said as Carter laid out the plans, he thought it might be five or 10 years away from happening.
“Ben said this is going to come quick, it’s going to come fast, and it did,” Lamb said.
There are 900 full-time and part-time jobs associated directly with the outlet center, said Tanger CEO Steve Tanger. It also will mean $10 million annually in sales tax revenue for the area, he added. Once the outparcels are built out, “this will be a couple of thousand jobs we have created the old fashioned way,” Tanger added, with private enterprise coming together with the public sector.
Kevin Langston, state Department of Economic Development assistant commissioner, pointed out the impact tourism has on the state and local economies — and the new Tanger Outlet Center can be a draw for tourists.
“Shopping tourism has emerged as one of the growing components of the travel experience,” he said. “For many times, it’s a prime motivator of why people want to travel. This new Tanger Outlet center is absolutely beautiful and a terrific response to the growing need for world-class shopping opportunities in Georgia.”
Across the state, tourism is a $54 billon industry and results in 411,000 jobs, Langston added. In Chatham County alone, tourism accounts for $1.3 billion in spending and 12,000 jobs.
“This location will see a large number of tourists and locals alike,” Langston said.
Carter and Tanger both said they hope shoppers enjoy the complex for more than the bargains.
“We hope you think it’s a pretty place to visit,” Carter said. “We tried really hard to be reminiscent of this region with the architecture and community. These projects can change lives and communities so doing them right the first time and making it a place for people to enjoy is my real passion.”
Said Tanger: “We wanted to create the ultimate shopping experience for each one of our guests. We take great pride in what we do. We provide outstanding customer service and we are proud of the world class, state of the art shopping amenities and the attraction we have created here in Savannah. We are determined to exceed your expectations every day. Everybody is going to be having fun, and everyone is going to be saving money.”
Building on the 176-acre site off Pooler Parkway and Interstate 95 wasn’t easy, though. Crews had to dig into, and dig out, “Pooler gumbo” in order to bring soil more suitable for supporting the buildings.
“Only a year-and-a-half ago, it was a wide-open parcel of land with that good Georgia gumbo that is really hard to build on,” Tanger said.
Tanger also said the outlet center will host events for schools and fundraisers, such as those to prevent and fight cancer. His mother is a 50-year survivor of breast cancer.
Lamb added the outlet center is expected to have a big impact on an already-bursting Pooler.
“We are now a destination spot,” he said. “We are a place where people want to shop, want to come eat, want to have a good time.”