They have stepped up to the plate.Effingham County Industrial Development Authority CEO Brandt Herndon
SPRINGFIELD — The master developer of the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub is chugging toward meeting its obligations to the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority (IDA).
In 2016, the IDA and OmniTrax Inc., which owns a network of regional and short-line railroads, joined in a public/private partnership to develop the 2,700-acre Research Forest site for industrial use. The deal’s objective is to help the IDA achieve its goals of alleviating some of Effingham County’s unique economic issues.
According to IDA statistics from 2017, the county has only one job for every three residents in the labor force, forcing the tax burden to be shouldered disproportionately by property owners. There are fewer than 10,000 jobs in the county, and 40 percent of those are government related. The county has more than 60,000 residents.
The Research Forest tract, now known as the Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub (SGIH), picked up its first tenant last fall when A&R Logistics broke ground for an approximately 610,000 square foot building that will be occupied this fall.
OmniTRAX is set to construct more than seven miles of park-serving rail infrastructure, a multi-customer centrally located rail yard and a rail yard that can accommodate 200-plus cars for A&R Logistics, which provides bulk logistics services for customers in the chemical and plastics industries.
Property behind Blandford Elementary School is currently being cleared for a railroad switch. It will join Norfolk Southern and CSX tracks.
“That was also part of our development agreement,” IDA CEO Brandt Herndon said during Thursday’s IDA meeting. “That was the other trigger. (The widening of) McCall Road was the first trigger. The second trigger was that (OmniTRAX) would commence the design and construction of a switch by March 3, 2020, so therefore they have started that work.”
Herndon said he receives numerous daily updates about SGIH progress.
“They have stepped up to the plate,” Herndon said. “... It’s hard to complain about what they are doing out there from our point of view.”
Herndon is hopeful that McCall Road will be cut for the installation of tracks from the switch to the SGIH while school is out.
“I don’t know how long it will take them to do it but they have about six weeks to do it or they will have to wait until fall break or some other time to do it,” he said.