Sometimes, patience is rewarded.
For years, the state has been assailed for not bringing in a major prospect to the vast empty lot at the northeast corner of the I-95/I-16 intersection.
So many firms kicked the tires on the site — beginning with DaimlerChrysler, which the state could not bring down the aisle, to Boeing, to other automakers — but the sprawling site sat lonely on the corner.
Until Monday’s announcement that Mitsubishi Power Systems will open a facility to build advanced and gas steam turbines on the site.
“Economic development is not a sprint,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue. “It’s a marathon that takes a lot of persistence. You have to have a compatible match, and the timing has to be just right. We feel a little frustrated. While this site has dated a lot of pretty girls, it hadn’t had one to bring home yet.”
The governor has called the megasite the “corner store location of the United States,” because of its proximity to I-95, a burgeoning port and a large airport.
“The availability of this portion of the megasite made locating our factory here a very easy decision,” Mitsubishi Power Systems President and CEO Koji Hasegawa said.
Given the current economic climate, Monday’s disclosure of what had been one of the hottest rumors through the summer was a welcome announcement.
“I love the sector they’ve chosen,” Perdue said. ‘You look at the energy balance sheet across the U.S., this is a bright future for this business model.”
Brian Foster, chairman of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, called Mitsubishi “truly a world-class company that will invigorate the local economy and put our area squarely in the ranks of an international movement in the production of clean energy.”
Mitsubishi plans to start production in a year. They will have 200 employees by the end of year 2 and 300 by the end of year 3, eventually employing approximately 500 workers. Will the county be ready when that happens?
Three years ago, the governor introduced a strategy to guide the state toward energy independence that balanced economic growth with traditional and alternative energy sources. The manufacturing of more efficient, cleaner energy production methods — such as Mitsubishi’s gas and steam turbines — can be a step down that road.
And just down the road, literally and figuratively, Mitsubishi’s plant will need suppliers and a ready workforce. Effingham County should be poised to reap some of the benefits. There is work that needs to be done to prepare some of those tracts that would be attractive to Mitsubishi suppliers and spin-off sites — the Japanese conglomerate’s decision to locate at the megasite is seen as the harbinger of more such things to come — and time is of the essence.
“We put in motion the physical transformation of this site and set the stage for even greater things to come,” said Doug Marchand, the soon-to-retire executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.
Mitsubishi’s decision to come to Pooler can only be seen as good news for the area, including Effingham County. And the decision could become even better if the community is ready to welcome the wave of suppliers and other companies that are sure to follow.