COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — This week, the city of Columbus scored a big economic development victory when it landed a Missouri-based pet food flavoring company that will bring 100 new high-paying jobs and a new manufacturing facility that will approach $80 million.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced on Thursday that Applied Food Biotechnology will build a new plant in Muscogee County Technology Park in East Columbus. The city offered the company $5 million in tax breaks over the next 10 years and about $1.5 million in shovel-ready property. The state threw in more than $400,000 to land AFB.
This deal with AFB International feels like old-school economic development. And economic development is just a bureaucrat’s way of saying jobs.
AFB International will build from the ground up on nearly 36 acres in Muscogee Technology Park in East Columbus not far from the Pratt & Whitney plant.
One of the things that attracted AFB was the ready-to-build site — and a workforce that can be trained for the jobs that will pay on average about $55,000 a year.
“When we got there, we found it was a thriving community,” said Stephanie Hackmann, the company’s vice president for Global Operations. “It was rich in history in food manufacturing, as well as science and technology. Which aligned exactly with AFB International. … When you think about the technical schools, the post-secondary education establishments, Fort Benning, that’s a great workforce that aligns with what we need.”
A top state economic development official said Columbus was ready and attractive to AFB International.
“We have to give kudos to the Columbus community and the forethought they had in investing in land and infrastructure to really help support projects like these,” said Brittany Young, the chief operating officer for the Georgia Department of Economic Development and deputy commissioner for Global Commerce
And there may be more recruiting opportunities in the pipeline.
“We see a pipeline that we have never seen before,” said Heath Schondelmayer, chairman of the Development Authority of Columbus. “And we are excited about where Columbus sits in the state of Georgia. Georgia is a state that business wants to come to. And that’s a testament to the job that Gov. Kemp and others are doing.”
The Columbus Development Authority – an arm of the city – has about 1,500 undeveloped acres in Muscogee Technology Park.
That land the infrastructure – access roads, water, sewer, natural gas, power, and fiber optics in place waiting for prospects.
And there is now a better city-state partnership to put these complicated deals together.
“When COVID hit it put ice on economic development for a couple of years,” Schondelmayer said. “And rather than just sit tight, we decided we use that time to really deepen our relationships at the state level.”
And that seems to have happened.
“We take a partnership approach to economic development,” Young said. “So, when we are speaking to companies it’s not just the state at the table. It’s the community, as well, hand in hand.”
The AFB announcement by the governor’s office could be the start of something that brings more economic development opportunities – jobs – to Columbus.
“We take a partnership approach to economic development,” Young said. “So, when we are speaking to companies it’s not just the state at the table. It’s the community, as well, hand in hand. And Jerald Mitchell and his team at the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce have really been able to partner with us, obviously for this opportunity but in hopes of having future opportunities, good opportunities for the community.”
Construction on the AFB International project will start early next year. The plant should be operational in 2024.