By RUSS BYNUM, Associated Press Writer
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - DaimlerChrysler chose coastal Georgia Thursday as the site of a new $750 million van plant, which will be the state’s largest factory and will bring thousands of jobs to the region.
The German automaker selected Georgia’s bid over sites near Charleston, SC and Jackonville, FL, ending a decade in which Georgia sat on the sidelines while other Southern states wooed automakers with lucrative incentives.
Gov. Roy Barnes confirmed the deal on Oct. 17. He said Georgia’s incentive package totals $320 million, or $67,000 per job — the largest sum the state has ever committed to luring an industry. South Carolina had offered a $340 million package, but Georgia’s site had the advantage of being at the crossroads of two major interstates and only a few miles from Savannah’s ports and airport.
"Georgia’s commitment to this project has been quite impressive," DaimlerChrysler said in a statement. "We are looking forward to further development in the same trustful and cooperative manner as we have had the opportunity to experience so far."
The plant will produce Sprinter and Vito cargo vans. No automaker has located in Georgia since 1947, when Ford and General Motors opened plants near Atlanta.
"I am extremely excited about DaimlerChrysler choosing Georgia," Barnes said. "This is further confirmation that our state and our citizens are prepared to compete in the global economy."
The plant will be located on 1,500 acres at the intersections of Interstates 95 and 16 in Pooler, 12 miles west of Savannah. It will employ about 3,300 people, with an average salary of $47,000 per year. Construction is scheduled to begin in July, with the first vans rolling off the assembly line in 2005.
"Obviously, not only for the city of Pooler, but for this whole region, this is big. This is real big," said Pooler Mayor Buddy Carter, whose blue-collar city has a population of 6,200. "This is a culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of different people."
The plant is expected to have a far-reaching impact, creating a ripple effect of new jobs within a 100-mile radius of Savannah. State officials say about 700 jobs will be created by suppliers locating near the site, with impact studies showing 10,000 jobs could be created overall.
"All of the communities of my size and maybe even some of the smaller ones are really going to feel the effect," said Willie Paulk, president of the Dublin-Laurens County Chamber of Commerce. "The suppliers are going to want to be close, but they don’t have to be right at the site."