Overall, the Georgia Department of Labor reports that actual employment among Floyd County residents has gone up from 41,958 in January to 43,421 in October, the last month for which figures are available.
One of Rome’s oldest industries, Temple-Inland got a new owner in International Paper, and less than two weeks ago, IP announced it plans to spin off the sawmill operations in Coosa to Georgia Pacific.
That’s just the industrial side of Rome’s business community.
The biggest news on the commercial side is unquestionably the start of construction at Charles Hight Square, soon to be home to a 54,000-square-foot Publix grocery store and more than a dozen smaller shops. Brenda Reid, a corporate communications spokeswoman for Publix said that the size of store being built in Rome would typically employ more than 100 associates, but that probably won’t happen until early in the fall of 2013.
Given the fact that the shopping center will include several restaurants, Charles Hight Square is likely to bring in more than 200 new jobs.
Downtown Rome, arguably the heart of Rome’s commercial sector, hired consultants from the Fanning Institute at the University of Georgia to develop a master plan, and city officials along with the central business district leadership were excited to see the draft of that plan earlier this month.
The downtown community got an early Christmas present Friday when David Doss revealed that the hotel his is planning to develop on West Third Street will be a Courtyard by Marriott. Doss of Samson Developers confirmed that the group, which includes Duke Hospitality, has a letter of commitment from Marriott, however the Marriott board of directors will not meet to give final approval to the project until the first week in February.
Ira Levy has also confirmed that a financing plan for work on Phase One of the expansion of Battey LLC’s Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham is in place. The work involves conversion of the former restaurant overlooking the Oostanaula into a 24-room addition. Levy revealed just days ago that Phase Two of the expansion, a two-story 48-room addition paralleling the river, is also in the works. When complete, both projects will bring the Hawthorn property to just over 100 rooms.
Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce President Al Hodge said the major expansions of F&P Georgia and Neaton Rome were huge pluses for the local economy. It’s the fifth expansion for F&P Georgia and the third major growth spurt at Neaton.
Both F&P and Neaton automotive supply chain companies were part of the Fab Four, along with Suzuki and Pirelli, that moved to Rome around the same time a decade ago.
Neaton’s latest expansion is projected to increase its workforce by approximately 113 employees over three years, while the F&P expansion created another 100 new jobs.
Hodge said the Foss expansion to Rome from headquarters in New Hampshire would bring close to 150 new jobs. “An addendum to that good news is that it is in West Rome, which has needed a good shot in the arm as well,” Hodge said.
An unusual aspect of the Foss deal is that the company got a financing package from the Rome Floyd Development Authority, then turned it down in favor of private financing, which means that the plant will be a full taxpayer from the get-go. Foss is located in the old Pharr Yarns/Mohawk plant on Huffaker Road.
The Lowe’s Regional Distribution Center has started hiring and will begin training its first batch of associates early in January. Lowe’s is expected to have the majority of its anticipated 600 employees hired on by the end of the first half of 2013.
Hodge told the RFDA recently that prospect visits to Rome from both domestic and international companies remains strong.
What are those companies looking for? “A ready-to-go site that is available and competitive,” Hodge said.
“By competitive I mean everything from price to incentives to the whole package, in other words the cost of doing business the first few years,” Hodge said. That translates into the ease of becoming productive as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Hodge said that a capable workforce is also at the top of the must-have list for new companies. “A workforce that is prepared and has the capacity to learn and adapt,” Hodge said.
Neither the Rome nor the Floyd County commissions have made a decision regarding imposition of a local tax on energy sales used in the manufacturing process. The state removed the tax as an incentive to lure industry, but left the door open to cities and counties as to whether or not they wanted to keep a portion of that revenue stream locally. A decision on that is expected soon and could have on impact on the competitiveness of the community with industrial prospects. It could also be a factor in whether or not existing industries continue to expand locally.
This year also saw its usual share of openings and closings of businesses. Through the month of November the downtown district reported 162 new jobs were added to the district and 58 were lost for a net gain of 104 new jobs.
Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Ann Arnold said perhaps the biggest development in downtown Rome was the proactive stance in cleaning up downtown taken by the Business Improvement District.
“What BID did — allocating $60,000 to the design committee — was huge,” Arnold said. “It truly had a significant impact. It helped resolve the issue of the 300-block property (old Top Hat property), it added parking, and it assisted other properties. They went above and beyond what they’ve done in the past to make a significant difference in the face of downtown,”
The DDA, with assistance from BID, approved a dozen renovation projects, and more than a dozen Broad Street property owners were nudged toward improvements to their property through the work of the Rome-Floyd Building Inspection office, which issued safety and maintenance citations requiring work to be done to upgrade downtown buildings.
The work on those buildings generated jobs and revenue for a number of local contractors throughout the year.
Finally, one of the more significant business-related events in 2012 was the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Rome real estate entrepreneur Larry Martin. The impact of that bankruptcy is still shrouded in legal fog with bankers, business owners and others waiting to see what happens. Martin is the largest individual owner of properties across Rome and Floyd County, and there has been considerable speculation that Martin could be forced by the court to liquidate some of his holdings as part of any reorganization plan.