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China trip could land big prospect for IDA
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Representatives from the Effingham Industrial Development Authority are set to embark on a journey literally on the other side of the globe, with their sights on closing a potentially significant deal.

IDA CEO John Henry and Chairman Dennis Webb will leave Saturday for China, returning the visit paid earlier this year by the firm, codenamed Project Stella.

“We had a meeting with them a couple of months ago and made a lot of progress,” Webb said. “We’re looking to further that.”

The initial investment from the company, should it enter into a memorandum of understanding with the IDA, is expected to result in 60 jobs. The employment number could swell to 250 jobs by the time the company finishes its phases of development over a five-year period.

The project’s anticipated investment is approximately $20 million.

“The project has a lot of potential,” Webb said, “a lot of potential.”

While Henry and Webb said they don’t expect to have a deal signed while they are in China, they hope to bring the company closer to completing a memorandum of understanding.

Making the trip to China is essential in finalizing any agreement, according to Henry.

“In this line of work, you’ve got to,” he said. “When the chairman of the company says, ‘come visit me,’ you go.”

Both Henry and Webb expressed their excitement about making the trip to China.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Henry said. “I hope it’s going to be a successful trip for us.”

“Am I excited? Absolutely,” Webb said.

The IDA hosted a large contingent from the company prior to St. Patrick’s Day, and that visit went well, according to Henry.

“They were happy with the area and the community, and they were impressed with the Effingham College and Career Academy,” he said. “They were pleased with the quality of the workforce and how we have our act together.”

Project Stella is a large company, Webb said, and the trip also includes a visit to the company’s facilities.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the facilities as well,” he said. “The facilities we are going to see are ultra-modern.”

Webb also has said that landing this firm might open the doors for other Chinese firms to look at locating in Effingham.

The project also has another firm, based in North Carolina, that could be part of the package.

“I think it’s a good project and a good deal for us,” Henry said.