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10/18/00 - The Orkin Site-A Mega-Site in Oconee/Athens Clarke By WD



October 18, 2000

The Orkin Tract consists of approximately 1,000 acres of land on GA 316 (University Parkway), U S Highway 78 and U S Highway 129 at the Oconee/Athens-Clarke County line.  Approximately 2/3 of the tract is in Oconee County and fronts on University Parkway and Hwy 78.   The remaining 1/3 lies in Clarke County and fronts on Highways 78 and 129.
The Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism (GA DITT) has identified the site as one of approximately 10 “mega-sites” in Georgia.  Mega-sites are those that the State feels have potential for locating national or international companies for manufacturing.  The Orkin Tract was the final Georgia location for the Mercedes search in 1993 that resulted in the Mercedes manufacturing plant locating in Alabama.  On several other occasions, large companies who were not identified have looked at the site, the last being “Project Spider” in the summer of 2000.   This search was believed to be for a chip plant or some high-tech activity. 
With the University of Georgia’s work in bio-technology and transfer-technology and the State’s Yamacraw Project, the Orkin site is believed to be a strong contender for technology development because of its location near the University of Georgia and within one hour of Metro Atlanta.   It is thought by many to be a unique tract under single ownership affording an excellent opportunity for planned technology development that would have regional and state impact.  It could have significant impact on the tax digests of both counties.
Oconee and Athens-Clarke worked cooperatively with the prospects and the state as prospects have examined this site’s potential.   The owners of the land have been cooperative each time.  However, there has been no continuing effort resulting in a rushed short-fused response to an inquiry or prospect’s interest.  There are several issues to be addressed by the two counties involved: tax distribution; infrastructure costs; permitting, inspection and code enforcement; utility needs, state assistance, ownership agreement, etc.  An intergovernmental agreement or memorandum of agreement is very much needed between Oconee and Athens-Clarke County addressing these and other issues.  A working agreement, or leasing arrangement, is needed with the owner to tie down price and availability of the land for a definite buyer.
There has been discussion over the years of a joint effort to provide “one-stop shopping” for the eventual buyer.  Some have suggested an Authority.  Others have suggested a joint effort of the two county Development Authorities.   Some have suggested hiring consultants to act as “project manager” for both counties.

This tract needs the attention and joint planning efforts of the two counties and owners as soon as possible.  Delay has resulted in the loss of “institutional memory” because the parties and officials involved change from time to time.  There needs to be a record and definite plan to deal with each other, any prospects and the state.


                                                                        Wendell Dawson, Chairman
                                                                        Oconee County Board of Commissioners