Losing the Volvo plant to South Carolina two years ago was a tough pill to swallow, but the experience also produced some positives for economic development in the region.
Among them were the creation of the four-county Savannah Harbor-Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority and the development of a Bryan County megasite that will give the area an advantage should another big manufacturer come calling.
Now, another development to come directly out of the quest for Volvo is about to become reality, as site work on the Georgia Advanced Manufacturing Training Center is underway at the corner of Interstates 16 and 95 in the Pooler megasite.
And this one is expected to create a powerful new tool for attracting and retaining high-paying manufacturing jobs.
The process began in December, when the Georgia Ports Authority, which holds the title to the megasite, deeded some 40 acres in the southeast corner of the property to the Technical College System of Georgia for the training center.
The 50,000-square-foot facility will house laboratory spaces, computer labs, classrooms, meeting rooms and administrative spaces.
It will include the space and equipment to deliver customized training in all core and emerging technologies in advanced manufacturing, including welding, mechatronics, control systems, automation and robots, industrial technologies and networked wireless systems of sensors, software, equipment and operation controls.
The center, which is expected to be complete by mid-2018, will be run by Quick Start, Georgia’s internationally acclaimed program providing customized training free-of-charge to qualified new, expanding and existing businesses.
Administered through the Technical College System of Georgia, it’s widely considered one of the state’s most important economic development incentives for attracting new investment and promoting job creation.
Volvo’s loss, area’s gain
The training center was added to the governor’s budget at the last minute in 2015 as another incentive for Volvo. When Volvo chose South Carolina, Gretchen Corbin, commissioner of the Technical College System of Georgia, said the center would still be built.
It will be the fourth Quick Start training facility in the state, according to Rodger Brown, executive director of marketing for Georgia Quick Start.
The first was built in West Point at the site of the Kia Motors assembly plant. The second is located in Athens, site of a Caterpiller manufacturing facility, and is focused on welding, industrial technology and automation. The third center, in Social Circle, is dedicated to biosciences.
The new Pooler center will have a focus on advanced manufacturing, one of Gov. Nathan Deal’s target industries. It will have a regional reach and be available to multiple employers and is expected to give industry recruiters a powerful new tool to tout.
The center will work with five neighboring technical colleges as well as with several universities in the area, Brown said, adding that its design will allow it the flexibility to change from training on one manufacturer’s machinery to another.
Trip Tollison, president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority, said the new training center would be a huge asset to existing and potential businesses and industries throughout the region.
“Our businesses will benefit greatly from having a world-class training center that can continually train employees on the latest equipment and technologies available in their industries,” he said.