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Colonial Group updates SEDA board on progress of Savannah Yacht Center

With the passage of legislation earlier this year giving yacht owners the same tax incentives for repair and service work in Georgia that they already get in Florida, Colonial Group’s Savannah Yacht Center on Lathrop Avenue is beginning to take shape

Colonial, with the help of state economic development officials and the Savannah Economic Development Authority, lobbied hard for the bill it said would “level the playing field” with Florida, New York and other states that offer such tax breaks.

On Tuesday, Colonial president and CEO Rob Demere, brought SYC general manager Jim Berulis to SEDA’s monthly meeting to update the authority board on the new yacht center’s progress.

“Our intent is to redevelop the shipyard – site of the former Intermarine shipbuilding facility - for the repair, refit and maintenance on larger-end mega yachts,” Berulis said.

“Since the bill passed the legislature, we’ve let about $10 million in contracts to rebuild the yard. That work is well underway, with all but one contractor local.”

Once complete in 2018, the facility will be one of the few on the East Coast capable of servicing the largest yachts and commercial vessels, he said. SYC’s graving dock will be able to handle yachts up to 450 feet in length, while a new 3,240-ton ship-lift and rail transfer system will be capable of accommodating more than six very large yachts — approximately 260 feet in length — out of the water simultaneously.

The company is awaiting permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will allow contracts for riverside work to begin.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll have those permits in place by June, which will allow us to have the facility fully operational in the first quarter 2018,” Berulis said.

In the meantime, the rebuilt dry dock begins limited operations next week, with a 223-foot yacht coming in for about three weeks’ worth of service work.

That ship will be the first of many.

“We expect to have a number of yachts coming into dry dock while we rebuild the shipyard,” Berulis said, adding that those yachts represent SYC’s target customer.

“There are about 800 boats that size in service today and another 110 being built worldwide,” he said. “On the East Coast of the United States, these really big boats have very few places to go.”

An economic impact study conducted for Colonial by Armstrong State University economist Michael Toma found that, when fully operational, the Savannah Yacht Center will support nearly 800 direct and indirect jobs across the state, as well as annual wages of $50 million, tax revenue of $5.5 million and $171 million in economic activity.

The lion’s share of those impacts will be in Chatham County, Toma said in his report, adding that the shipyard itself is expected to employ about 130 full-time workers, while the other jobs are attributed to sub-contractor labor in ancillary activity at the shipyard and the effects of economic multipliers. The state-level employment multiplier is 2.51.

“This is a tremendous project for Chatham County,” said Trip Tollison, SEDA president and CEO.

“The infrastructure and the funds that Colonial Group is investing is going to bring in high quality jobs, most of which pay upwards of $60,000, and there is tremendous potential beyond that, with up to 800 direct and indirect jobs in play.”

Pat Wilson, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, agreed.

“Colonial Group is joining an ever-growing number of companies who are choosing to expand in our state, due to our pro-business environment and top-notch business resources,” Wilson said.

“Thanks to the efforts of our state’s legislature, Georgia is a natural choice for growing businesses. Congratulations to our partners in Chatham County, we look forward to the success Colonial Group will see in the region.”

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