Sunday, February 06, 2011

Bold Move Brings Early Returns For Whitfield County

John Pless

Brighter days appear on the horizon for Whitfield County which has been under the clouds of plant cutbacks and closures resulting in double-digit unemployment far worse than state and national averages.

A bold move by County Commissioners to jump start the local economy is paying off more quickly than anyone thought. They and local business leaders are doing something they've never done before -- creating a diverse economic development plan.

The good news, in part, hinges on XL Brands which has made adhesives for carpet and hard flooring for 32 years. Unlike other northwest Georgia flooring related businesses that have been pummeled by the recession, they've experienced so much growth they need a new place to call home.

"We've got a group of people that are committed to doing things different and better within the market place," XL Brands Vice President Joe Tuttolomondo said.

XL Brands has outgrown three buildings in Whitfield and Gordon counties. But instead of moving elsewhere XL Brands committed to Whitfield County and is building an all-new 122,000 square foot facility that gives them 50% more room under one roof in the soon-to-be Carbondale Business Park.

"We're truly committed to economic development and we are open for business in Dalton and Whitfield County," Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority Executive Director Elyse Cochran said.

Cochran said Whitfield County Commissioners took a bold step for a local government during times of recession by getting $12-million in bonds to buy and develop just under 200 acres of land along I-75 at Carbondale Road.

Up until recently Whitfield County did not have a business-industrial park to promote diverse growth nor did it have an economic development plant until now. It was assumed the carpet industry was immune to economic downturns.

"We told the world that we are open for business and we can compete in a global economy, but the one missing link was that we did not have an industrial park," Cochran said.

Now plans call for attracting a diverse range of companies to the Carbondale Business Park, which is expected to create 1,900 jobs over ten years. Having a first tenant early, XL Brands, goes a long way to marketing the business park.

"Whitfield County really came to the party and assisted us in a variety of different ways and this particular facility is geographically located in a strategic manner that will expedite our move and consolidation," Tuttolomondo said.

Construction for XL Brands' new home begins in March with an expected completion by the end of the year.

Cochran said development of the Carbondale Business Park will evolve in two phases and will be in concert with the Georgia Department of Transportation's plans to completely re-design and re-construct the I-75 interchange with Carbondale Road ahead of the growth expected in southern Whitfield County.

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