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 http://www.carbonmotors.com/.