The EDZ Brings New Jobs to Elbert County

The EDZ Brings New Jobs to Elbert County
The first application has been approved with more on the horizon

In January, when Elbert County’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved amendments to the County’s land use regulations, they hoped it would spur new commercial development. Now, just nine months later, the intent of the newly created Economic Development Zone Overlay District (EDZ) is piquing the interest of local businesses and helping to bring new commercial development to the County.

The EDZ was established to help solve a problem the County and its Commissioners had been hearing for years, that it was too expensive and too time-consuming to open a business in Elbert County. Before the EDZ, most land suitable for economic activity was zoned for agriculture, and the County had limited land appropriately zoned for economic activity or mixed-use. Additionally, the application process could cost $50,000 to $150,000 with most of the money paid to outside contractors. The County’s approval process could take up to eighteen months from application submission to approval.

The County realized there were just too many barriers for potential new businesses and set out to change their approach to new commercial development. Now, the EDZ allows the applicant the opportunity to develop potential centers for commercial activity.

“The purpose of the EDZ is to spur economic activity in these areas,” stated Chris Richardson, BOCC Chair. “One of the common concerns we have heard is the cost—both time and expense—to starting new businesses in the County. The EDZ is a tool property owners can use to help expedite establishing new businesses in Elbert County.”

Key areas identified for development are along main travel corridors that can attract potential customers. The approved EDZ does not change where a property owner can put in a business, but allows the landowner within the overlay zone to “fast track” the process by allowing commercial use along predefined corridors.

On Wednesday, October 23, the BOCC held a land use hearing and approved the County’s first Site Development Plan under the new EDZ for the development of a light manufacturing campus where medical products are made. The applicant, Preferred Medical Products, currently occupies a 20,000 square foot space in Centennial and is looking to expand its operations by adding three additional buildings resulting in significant increases in property tax revenues for the County.

The approved Site Plan is a 60-acre site located at 20200 County Road 141 in Matheson. The property is immediately south of U.S. Highway 24 and bordered by County Roads 141 (to the west) and 82 (to the south). The purpose of the application was to approve the land use for light manufacturing and review the proposed EDZ Site Development Plan resulting in a total of six buildings.

The site is within one of the newly established EDZ areas and the applicant has been able to quickly move through the planning and approval process. “The County’s new EDZ, and their site plan approval has allowed us to expand our company and bring much-needed work to the residents of Elbert County,” stated Bill Bartolac, owner of Preferred Medical Products. He also commended County staff and the Commissioners for their work throughout the approval process.

This project directly aligns with the County’s comprehensive plan and supports the strategic goals of the BOCC that Elbert County supports the growth of industrial enterprises and promotes strong, diverse economic development. Currently, over 90% of Elbert County residents commute outside the County for work. Adding a primary employer to the area brings new opportunities to young families who desire to work where they live.

The facility, when complete, will employ over 100 people with salaries for trained staff exceeding $20 per hour and some supervisory salaries exceeding six figures. It is expected that most of the staff will have residences in the Simla/Matheson area.

“This is a good, stable job for me and my young daughter,” said Kristin Wagner, a Simla resident and current Preferred Medical Products employee. “This job has allowed me to provide for my daughter in a similar way to how I grew up, and I’m very thankful for that.” She also added that she believed the new business location would help other small businesses in the area.

It is projected as the new medical campus is built out, it will become a catalyst for increased business activity in the area. The property owner has already added a cistern to the new site and has an agreement to share the water with the Big Sandy Fire District to use in case of an emergency, improving fire safety in the area.

Commissioner Grant Thayer said, “The approval of the Preferred Medical Products Site Plan provides new employment and economic opportunities for County residents. That is the purpose of the EDZ and what we set out to accomplish by changing the County’s land use regulations earlier this year. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished and look forward to the positive impacts in the months and years to come.”