It appears the growth already rampant on the west side of Chatham County is making its way to the small town of Bloomingdale.
During a recent breakfast to toast the town’s local businesses, City Administrator Charles Akridge said commercial enterprises both large and small have been locating and expanding in Bloomingdale in recent months, all in their own way helping to put Chatham County’s rural, westernmost town on the map.
While there likely many explanations for the development his town is seeing, Akridge said after the April 26 event some of the companies that have chosen to locate in Bloomingdale are lured by its lack of property taxes and business-friendly environment.
Others, he said, like the town’s customer service and lack of red tape.
“We realize that time is money for growth and expansion and like to facilitate those proposals as quickly as possible,” Akridge said. “We are a canvas waiting to be painted here in Bloomingdale and we welcome all new growth and development proposals, but they must fit within the vision of how we want to plan our community going forward.”
Development in Bloomingdale has faced its share of criticism in the past. Residents opposed of the hustle and bustle created by the growth in other west Chatham cities have lined up against development they fill would detract from the Bloomingdale’s small town feel. Last summer, for example, when developers proposed a new 320-unit apartment complex just off U.S. 80, the opposition was quite vocal.
But the development was ultimately approved by city officials, and Akridge reported last week that plans for the Meadows of Bloomingdale complex are being drawn up now. Rent for the Meadows development is expected to be between $900 and $1,000 a month, he said.
Elsewhere along U.S. 80 — the commercial core of Bloomingdale — the city administrator reported that land is being cleared for a new convenience store, and even more expansions are under way.
A few doors down from Bloomingdale City Hall on U.S. 80, the custom upholstery business Bloomingdale Sewtech is preparing for more growth, said Juan Arias, a former employee of Gulfstream Aerospace, who, along with other Gulfstream alums, founded Sewtech in Bloomingdale.
Arias said his company recently put in a bid for work on an airplane owned by President Donald Trump, and Bloomingdale Sewtech regularly does work for actor John Travolta and other celebrities. And while those buyers might not necessarily recognize where the product came from, Arias said, the locals certainly do.
“We did it and we did it in Bloomingdale,”he said. “That’s important to me, and it should be important to us.”
Arias said the company plans to expand to another property nearby to house some ongoing projects, but it’s possible Sewtech will outgrow that as well.
In addition, Jim White of Bloomingdale’s family owned The Butcher’s Block reported his company has been working during the last few years to expand in the regional market. White said The Butcher’s Block products can already been found in grocery stores in Savannah, Tybee Island, Pembroke and Claxton, and the company met recently with representatives of the supermarket chain Kroger about adding products to its 14 locations in the region.
At Aerotech Machining on Bloomingdale Road, representative Joey Jones said his company has submitted plans for expansion to city officials for review.
And Steve Taylor with Atlantic Commercial Construction said his company has purchased property across the street from its existing location on U.S. 80 in Bloomingdale to renovate and expand. The hope, he said, is to move ACC’s offices to the house, and then possibly use the cotton store next door for use as a shop for one of his side projects.
“We’re growing and planning to stay right here in Bloomingdale,” Taylor said.
Meanwhile, on the industrial side, Akridge said the shipping company FedEx has announced a new distribution center in Bloomingdale just off Pooler Parkway and plans for a two-phase, multimillion-dollar expansion of Floor &Decor’s distribution center in the city are moving ahead. Akridge added a prospective business is currently eyeing space for a 350,000 square foot facility in the Proglogis Morgan Business Center on S.H. Morgan Parkway.
The Prologis site has proven quite successful for Bloomingdale and Chatham County, said Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, because it provides pad-ready sites that meet developers’ demands.
Tollison said it seems the new industry and expansions in the town are putting Bloomingdale in line with the kind of growth other areas of the community are experiencing — a benefit from an improving economy.
“We’re excited for the future of Bloomingdale,” Tollison said. “They’ve only got a couple of tracts, and they’ve been getting a lot of interest. I think it provides some long term benefits to the community.”
Along with its available industrial space, Bloomingdale has some other key factors influencing its growth, said Commissioner Dean Kicklighter, who represents west Chatham on the county commission.
Kicklighter said Bloomingdale is positioned in one of the best locations in the Coastal Empire — close in proximity to both Interstates 16 and 95 and just a short drive from the more urban cities of Pooler and Savannah. Bloomingdale is one of the last remaining cities without a property tax, he added, which is another huge draw for businesses.
“For the west side as a whole and the county as a whole, (Bloomingdale’s growth) is a good thing, because it’s bringing in jobs and tax money for the county,” he said, adding that for the local population, the smaller businesses have proven to be even more of a benefit.
Along with the new commercial growth, the town itself is raising funds to add its own piece to the new development — a much-needed gymnasium and multipurpose facility at Bloomingdale’s Taylor Park. Akirdge said the project is in its design phase now, but there is still more fundraising to be done to get the facility built.