A look back at 2019, a review of the top business stories reveals several items that made big headlines — some of those were really big headlines.
We’re not going to try to numerically rank a top 10 list, but the merger of Floyd Medical Center with Atrium Health out of Charlotte, North Carolina; the closing of Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond; and the change in how Rome and Floyd County go about recruiting new industry certainly find their way to positions near the top of the list.
♦ The Floyd Medical Center/Atrium Health deal announced the first week in November was a shocker to just about anyone who does not have an office inside the FMC administrative suites. The real impact of the deal is not expected to be felt until next year because a lot of the wrinkles still have to be ironed out. That is expected to take most of the coming year.
FMC President Kurt Stuenkel said the deal was the culmination of a two-year journey for FMC as it tried to better position the hospital for the future.
“It’s time to consider getting bigger,” Stuenkel said.
Atrium has agreed to invest $650,000,000 in the Floyd system — which includes Polk Medical Center and the Cherokee Medical Center in Centre, Alabama — over an 11-year period of time. Atrium will pour in $80 million for the Floyd Health Care Foundation at closing.
♦ The shut-down of Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond in Coosa was not a such huge surprise. Most leaders in the community had seen that move coming for several years. The plant had functionally been reduced to a peak-power generator for the last three years, providing energy to the electric grid only on the hottest days of summer and coldest days of winter.
The impact of the closing on the community, from the perspective of a tax base, wont be felt until the coming year because utility tax valuations are done by the state as of Jan. 1 each year. The Floyd County government and the Floyd County school system are both expecting to take significant hits.
♦ The changes at the Rome Floyd Chamber started in the fall of 2018, when a joint task force examined how the community recruits new jobs and decided a change was needed.
In 2019 the city and county finally came to the conclusion that the existing Rome-Floyd County Development Authority was the logical leader. Then an appointed group including Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord, City Manager Sammy Rich and Rome-Floyd County Development Authority Chairman Jimmy Byars found their new chief job hunter, Missy Kendrick, right next door in Polk County.
Rome Floyd Chamber President Jeanne Krueger, who took over at the chamber after the retirement of Al Hodge, thinks the changes have evolved smoothly over the course of the year.
“We continue to have great success from the chamber side working with our existing industries and seeing to their needs,” Krueger said. “When it comes time for incentives to be introduced into that process, the development authority is at the table as well. I think the process has worked very well.”
Looking across other activity in Rome and Floyd County during the past year, we’ve chosen seven other businesses stories to round out our top 10. They’ve been put in no particular order. We’ve also combined a couple of items for the sake of this list.
♦ Southeastern Mills spun off its customized coatings and seasonings division to the Irish baking company Kerry Inc. in a deal that was actually announced last December. SEM then revealed plans for a huge new storage and distribution center in the Floyd County Industrial Park and followed that up by announcing that it was planning a name change. The latter could occur any day now.
♦ A project that has been closer to a decade in the making, Ira Levy’s Lofts at Third & Broad, also made the list when construction was completed and new condo and retail shop owners — not renters — moved in this fall. Several of the retail spaces are still available, as are a number of the condominiums.
♦ The Ball Corp. had a big year, revealing in February its intent to acquire a 67-acre site behind its Shannon plant for between $1.6 million and $1.7 million. The company has not detailed its plans for the property and still has not closed on the purchase. In October, Ball announced a $217 million, 250,000-square-foot addition to its existing plant. Ground will be broken for that project in January. At completion, the expansion will add 145 jobs.
♦ Rome’s R.H. Ledbetter Properties closed on the former Kmart property at Turner McCall Boulevard and Hicks Drive, demolished what was there and has started to construct their new East Bend shopping center. Names of prospective tenants have trickled in as building plans are submitted to the Building Inspection Office. Among the tenants identified thus far are Discount Tire, McAlister’s Deli, Panda Express, Five Below, Texas Roadhouse and Chipotle.
♦ Another story that spread across a good part of the year was the effort of a Lyerly hotel developer to put a new Sleep Inn franchise in Rome. Tony Patel’s first choice of a location — the intersection of Charlton Street and Martha Berry Boulevard at an entrance to the Summerville Park community — drew howls of protest from the residents.
The Northwest Georgia Housing Authority stepped in, purchased the property from Patel, and announced plans for senior living apartments. Patel then contracted for the purchase of a 1.8-acre tract in front of the RiverPoint Luxury Apartments next to State Mutual Stadium, with plans to build a four-story Sleep Inn/MainStay Suites hotel. That deal is expected to close sometime late in the first quarter of 2020.
♦ Heritage Sleep Concepts makes the list with its acquisition of the former Capitoline Products building adjacent to Richard B. Russell Regional Airport. The deal not only provides the Rome-based bedding manufacturer with ample space, but it also consolidated operations from several sites across the community — thereby freeing up space for the new economic development team to show to prospective new industries.
♦ Finally, Georgia Pacific revealed plans for a major upgrade to its mill in Coosa. While the $30 million project didn’t really result in new jobs, it did shore up the company’s commitment to its Rome operations. As former chamber chief Al Hodge constantly reminded folks: serving existing industries, keeping them happy and viable right here at home, is always a critical piece of the overall jobs puzzle.
There were many stories to choose from in picking our top 10, but 2019 had a wealth of important events through the year.
The Housing Authority won a $1.25 million Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant, which is huge for East Rome and the Maple Street/East 12th Street corridors.
Kevin Dillmon opened his Aventine restaurant on West Third Street during the last two months of the year, another positive development in the River District across from downtown Rome, on the west side of the Oostanaula River.
Berry College’s announcement of plans to add a Fairfield Inn & Suites hotel to the property next to the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College is also going to be a big deal. However, construction on that project is not expected until perhaps as late as the fourth quarter of 2020.
Since we are saying farewell to another decade Wednesday, we’ll take a look back at some of the top business stories of the past 10 years next week. Don’t be surprised to see a few that made the 2019 list crash the list of big business stories for the decade as well.