The Baldwin Bulletin – Wil Petty

September 19, 2019

Central State Hospital in the last three years has become the epicenter of job creation and growth in Milledgeville-Baldwin County. Companies including Bostick, Cogentes and most recently Food Service Partners have entered the campus and have created, or are in the process of creating, hundreds of jobs for the region. On Tuesday, Sept. 3, the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners purchased the campus’ Lawrence Building for $510,000. According to a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commissioners and the Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority, the county “shall resell said property to CSHLRA at its request if needed to further the economic development plans of said authority,” for the price of purchase plus 8 percent interest.

According to the documents, the county plans to hold on to the property for a period of five years. If the property hasn’t been reacquired by the Authority, the county will either require the Authority to repurchase the property on those conditions or “ask for an exchange of properties between the parties.” Commissioner Henry Craig addressed concerns of the property acquisition during Tuesday night’s public hearing portion of the commission meeting by saying “Buying the Lawrence Building is the best thing that has happened in Baldwin County in decades.” “In the past, Baldwin County has invested in economic development by just writing checks and hoping things happen,” he said, noting having the Lawrence Building is the first time the county has also received collateral. “It’s a good investment.” Commissioner Sammy Hall said the Lawrence Building is valued at $750,000 and there is a guaranteed buyback. The Authority recently closed on a $10 million loan backed by the United States Department of Agriculture to help renovate the Parham Kitchen for Food Service Partners. The company is expected to bring over 320 jobs to Milledgeville-Baldwin County preparing meals for different institutions. The kitchen, roughly 140,000 square feet in size was ounce touted as “the world’s largest flash freeze kitchen.” Hiring is expected to start in early 2020. “If that kitchen project goes as expected there will be a buyer for that building,” Hall said, noting the project is considered the main project by the state rural development committee. “We’re going to see other companies come here because of that kitchen. They’re going to buy all of their produce within 250 miles of Milledgeville, Georgia. It’s going to help farmers all across the state. Agriculture is the No. 1 business in the state of Georgia with $77 billion being circulated around it every year. And Milledgeville will be the hub.”

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Erin Andrews