Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Strike that (for now): Dawsonville not in running for car plant

Dawsonville not in running for car plant

Company chairman says report ‘highly inappropriate’

Recent talk that a high performance police car automaker was considering a site in Dawsonville may have been wishful thinking on the part of a local real estate agent.

William Santana Li, chairman and chief executive officer of Carbon Motors, said the announcement was “highly inappropriate” and no discussions have taken place about a possible site in Dawsonville.

“There is one site in Georgia we are focused on and that’s Braselton,” Li said Monday afternoon. “We’re not looking at Dawsonville. There have been no meetings, no discussions. There never were and at this rate there never will be.”

Li said Carbon Motors could decide on a site by the end of July.

“I don’t have time for this, and I don’t appreciate it,” he said.

Carolyn Cantrell made a presentation to the Dawsonville City Council last week, saying she was attempting to woo the automaker to a site across Hwy. 183 from the Elliott Racing Complex.
Cantrell, who could not be reached for comment this week, also facilitated the land sale between the developer of a proposed motorsports park and Ernie Elliott on Duck Thurmond Road.

She told council last week the property was ideal for the automaker due to its proximity to Elliott’s airport and to Atlanta Motorsports Park, which the city council approved last month.
She estimated the plant’s overall economic impact at $3 billion over 10 years, with as many as 2,000 employees by the time the plant reaches full capacity.

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox said Tuesday it would have been nice to have the plant in Dawsonville, but he was “just glad they’re wanting to stay in Georgia.”

“This was brought to us,” Cox said. “We didn’t go out and pursue it. We let [Cantrell] speak last week, because like I said then, I wanted to get this started right, with the facts up front, so people would know what’s going on.

Councilwoman Linda Grant echoed Cox’s sentiments.

“Hopefully, by Dawsonville being brought up in the conversation, we will get some companies that will come here and create new jobs. We have so many people, and so many youth, that need work.”

While it may not include Carbon Motors, motorsports park developer Jeremy Porter said industry will follow the site.

Late last week, Porter said he had confirmation that three automotive companies were preparing to relocate to Dawsonville.

“Those three include one major company in the motor world that’s willing to relocate its headquarters to Atlanta Motorsports Park,” he said.

Porter said two motorsports companies in the Sugar Hill area were interested in relocating to Dawsonville.

Steve Holder, planning director for the city, said he has not heard from any specific businesses.
Preliminary estimates by the Development Authority of Dawson County indicated the motorsports park would be an economic stimulator for the area, with other like industry following suit.

According to Porter, legendary Formula One track architects, Tilke, has agreed to design the local course.

“That’s huge,” Porter said. “They are responsible for nearly every modern-era Formula One track designed in the last 10 years. By partnering with the foremost track designer, AMP has taken further steps to ensure we will stand out as North America’s premier facility for motorsports enthusiasts.”

Porter said he continues to talk with other automotive companies that would also fit in well with the motorsports park.

“Others will follow and are paying a lot more attention now that we have the zoning to move forward,” he said.

E-mail Michele Hester at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Car plant looking to locate in Dawsonville

Car plant looking to locate in Dawsonville could create 2,000 jobs in coming years

by Lori Robinson

Dawson News & Advertiser

After a somewhat laid back and quiet Dawsonville City Council meeting on Monday, May 4, Mayor Joe Lane Cox took the opportunity during closing announcements to address the possibility of a new car plant coming to the city.

Carolyn Cantrell, a Dawson County native and representative of Talking Rock Realty, presented information regarding the car plant to the council.

The car plant, called Carbon Motors, specializes in cars geared specifically toward law enforcement and is looking at Dawsonville as a potential site for its future facility.

Carbon Motors, based in Atlanta, is considering a site near the controversial site of the soon-to-be constructed Atlanta Motorsports Park (AMP). Elliott Family Parkway has been in the news for the past year as local residents and AMP developer Jeremy Porter went head to head, with Porter receiving unanimous approval from the city council last month to move ahead with construction of AMP - a motorsports country club to be located on approximately 150 acres belonging to the Elliott family on Duck Thurmond Road off Highway 53 West.

The mayor and council, as well as Cantrell, expressed worries that more controversy would ignite over Carbon Motors' potential interest in another parcel of Elliott family property.

"We want people to have all the facts about this, get all the information and then if they're against it, they're against it," Cox said at the meeting Monday.

Cantrell explained that the plant would be a facility to build police cars exclusively. It would not be partnered with any car companies. Rather, Carbon Motors would build each unit from the ground up. The cars would be constructed solely for the safety and comfort of the police officers who would drive them.

"This company has looked at two other sites in the State of Georgia," Cantrell said, addressing the mayor and council. "Things have come up with both of those sites that could possibly put Georgia out of the running for this plant. We heard about it and approached Carbon Motors."

Cantrell said the company initially told her realty company "no," until it was made aware Dawsonville could offer a facility such as AMP for the testing of its vehicles, as well as the Elliott's garage and nearby airport access.

The parcel of land in question is a track of 200-250 acres on Highway 183/Elliot Family Parkway, owned by the Elliott family.

"The first thing we want to make sure is that public knows the Elliott's are not involved in this deal," Cantrell said. "They've got the land, they're selling it, but that's as far as their involvement goes."

Cantrell says it "terrifies" her that Georgia may be passed up on this opportunity.

"We want to come to everyone concerned, let them know what's going on from the very beginning," she said. "Let them know what this company can do for this county as a whole." In the beginning, the plant is estimated to create about 200-250 jobs, with job growth projected to reach nearly 2,000 in the coming years.

"This plant won't be owned or partnered with Ford or any other car maker, so there won't be a large production rate," Cantrell said. "We're guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 cars per year. They're starting with a clean slate. They're doing the building marketing and service of the cars and, when these cars wear out, they plan to recycle them. This is a one-company show." Cantrell said the biggest benefit of Carbon Motors coming to Dawsonville Cantrell would be the creation of more local jobs.

"This will enable our children to stay within our county and work rather than having to leave home to find work," she said.

"The difference between here and anywhere else is that they would have to build from the ground up somewhere else," she added. "If they come here, they will already have the potential use of the motorsports park track for testing. They like the idea of Porter's driving course and, when it's totally finished, the executives of the company will come here to look at it. If they're interested, they would have Ernie Elliott's shop where they could set up business immediately."
Cantrell estimates it will be four to six weeks before Carbon Motors' executives will come to Dawsonville.

The executives are still looking at Pooler and Braselton as potential sites but, according to Cantrell, it's obvious that Dawson County and the City of Dawsonville have more to offer.

"We're at the beginning stages of trying to entice [Carbon Motors] to come here. We'd like your support and your help," she said, appealing to the mayor and council, and mentioning Carbon Motors is set on having its site chosen by July of this year.

There are a lot of other states clamoring for this company, Cantrell pointed out. She said only one refused. North Carolina turned down Carbon Motors because of the company's non-union status.

"To us, this is a plus," Cantrell said. "It relieves a company of a lot of pressure that can either make or break it."

In the long run, Cantrell said the plant would save Georgia a lot of money in the purchase of police cruisers.

"It costs more to buy a street car and get it ready for law enforcement in the long run," she said. "These cars won't be cheap, but the operating of them will be 40 percent less than what we are paying now. It makes good sense for cities and counties to replace their old cars with these as they can."

Production of the Carbon Motors' cars in Dawsonville could begin by 2012.

There is another site nearby that also has potential, Cantrell warned. Cherokee County could become a front-runner if Dawsonville turns down the opportunity to welcome Carbon Motors to the community.

"The Cherokee plant would possibly have to transport its cars up here to the track," she said, "so it just makes more sense to have it here."

After listening to Cantrell's presentation, Cox said he appreciated her input.

"I feel it would be a good opportunity," he said. "We've sat on our duffs for too long and let too many opportunities go by. We just want to make sure that all the facts are out there."

"I think it would be most wonderful for the economy of both Dawson County and Georgia if we can get [Carbon Motors] here," Cantrell said. "We jumped on it when we heard that Georgia may be out of the running for it and we're in the process of trying to get them to see Dawsonville as a site of choice."

Cantrell, daughter of the late Duck Thurmond, said she's not worried about an operation like Carbon Motors affecting the quality of life on Highway 183.

"If dad were living, he would applaud this," she said. "Duck Thurmond was absolutely for progress. I know how beautiful that area is up there, I grew up there and I wouldn't do anything to cause harm to it."

She also feels strongly about the importance of what Carbon Motors does.

"My son is in law enforcement. I feel this will improve [officers'] comfort and way of working," she said.

For more information about Carbon Motors, visit

Yesterday's around town sighting...

Move AMP received word on an intersting, "around town" sighting yesterday. Our source was coming home from the grocery store and drove by the Pool Room, and who was coming out?

Mike Berg, chairman of the county commissioners, Joey Homans, county attorney, Gordon Pirkle, Downtown Development Authority member, Joe Lane Cox, the beloved motorized mayor, and Jeremy Porter, AMP developer, all smiles.

Source reportedly said she stopped to say hello to Berg.

Source remarked, "Who'd have thought you'd be keeping such good company?"

He just said, "hello" in response.

Source also claims (to no surprise) they were seen shaking hands and acting like they'd just wrapped up another one of those famous backroom, off the record meetings.

Dawson Community News: City in hunt for police car plant

Well, after months of stonewalling by city and county officials, it appears we now know more about the master plan for the property.

City in hunt for police car plant

Carbon Motors eyes site near motorsports park

Dawsonville is in the running for an assembly plant that would build a specialized, high performance police car.

Real estate agent Carolyn Cantrell told the Dawsonville City Council on Monday night that Carbon Motors is interested in 200 to 250 acres on Hwy. 183, across from the Elliott Racing Complex.

The proposed plant would produce the Carbon E7, a prototype police cruiser that could go up to 155 mph and feature voice control, night-vision cameras and a license plate recognition system. The automaker is expected to make a decision by July. Cantrell estimated the plant’s overall economic impact at $3 billion over 10 years. The initial 250 new jobs could grow to as many as 2,000 when the plant reached full capacity.

Numerous factors, including access to major automotive suppliers and Dawsonville’s proximity to Atlanta, attracted Carbon to the site. But the key, Cantrell said, was the recently approved motorsports park on Duck Thurmond Road.

“Wherever they (Carbon Motors) go, they’re going to have to have a test track,” she said. City council last month approved zoning for a sports car country club, which would include nearly three miles of high performance road course.

Preliminary estimates by the Development Authority of Dawson County indicated the motorsports park would be an economic stimulator for the area, with other like industry following suit.

Dawsonville Mayor Joe Lane Cox said he did not want to pass up the opportunity.

“We need to dig in and push ourselves,” he said. “We’ve let some good opportunities slip by.”

Cantrell facilitated the land deal between motorsports park developer Jeremy Porter and Ernie Elliott. The Elliotts also own the property Cantrell is showing the automaker.

“The only involvement the Elliotts have is they are selling the land,” she said. “This is not an Elliott project.”

Earlier this year, the cities of Braselton and Pooler emerged as the two Georgia finalists for the automotive assembly plant. But Braselton appears to have fallen out of the running, Cantrell said, while Pooler is “having problems.”

“This area is by far a better spot for it,” she said.

Other finalist sites announced by the company include Connersville, Ind., Plymouth, Mich., Charlotte, N.C., and Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.

Based in Atlanta, Carbon Motors prefers to stay in Georgia, Cantrell said.

Representatives from Carbon Motors are expected in town within the next few weeks to review the proposed site, nearby racing complex and plans for the motorsports park.

William Santana Li, Carbon Motors’ founder and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the company is working to “foster the public-private sector collaboration needed to provide our first responders the equipment they so sorely need.”

Carbon Motors is prepared to invest more than $350 million in developing and producing the Carbon E7, which is slated for production in 2012. The car will be powered by a biodiesel capable engine that uses clean diesel technology.

Dawson County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Greg Rowan is familiar with the prototype and encouraged that Carbon Motors is considering the local site.

“A few years ago, they asked for suggestions on what officers need in patrol cars,” Rowan said. For his comments, Rowan won a contest to receive one of the first cars off the assembly line.

“We’re looking forward to getting the car,” he said.

The Downtown Development Authority also appears on board with bringing the automaker to Dawsonville, though at least one member expects some opposition.

Authority member Gordon Pirkle said he thinks the same group that opposed the motorsports park will fight to keep industry out of the rural area.

“But we’ve got to look at it this way,” Pirkle said. “We’ve got to do things to keep our kids here after high school and college. They aren’t going to stay here in Dawson County for retail jobs, and this would bring good, high-paying jobs.

“I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t want that.”