Located an hour southwest of Atlanta, LaGrange, Georgia enjoys an ideal location in addition to a diverse economy and high quality of living. The city of 30,000 sits at the crossroads of Interstate 85 and Interstate 185, providing direct access to surrounding cities and two major ports.
“Our transportation infrastructure is second to none,” says Director of Economic Development Mike Criddle. “And we have that without having the traffic problems associated with major hubs like Atlanta. It is a huge advantage.”
A number of Fortune 500 companies operate within LaGrange and the city’s diverse manufacturing sector continues to thrive. Industry giants Kimberly-Clark, Caterpillar, and Duracell all have manufacturing facilities there and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia is located nearby. Milliken & Company and Interface both produce carpet products in LaGrange, while BWay manufactures plastic products, Jindal Films produces plastic packaging, and Atlas makes roofing and insulation products. The list goes on and on. “There is a tremendous variety of industry here, everything from soup to nuts,” Mr. Criddle remarks.
LaGrange has made it a priority to keep manufacturing in town – and the efforts have paid off. “We work very hard to maintain relationships with existing industry and helping existing industry expand,” Mr. Criddle reports. “We offer incentives for their expansion. We help them develop their workforce. We do a lot of things to make this a very business friendly community. We want to do business here.”
Perhaps most enticing, LaGrange offers local industry a low cost of doing business. The city provides utilities to the community – from electricity and natural gas to water – and it does so at a very competitive rate. “We provide all of our services at a lower cost than our competitors. Our electric rates are typically eight to 15 percent lower… so that keeps the cost of operating low for all of our businesses.” LaGrange makes a modest profit from providing utilities, and these earnings have enabled the city to do away with municipal property taxes, lowering the cost of doing business even more.
As a member of MEAG Power (Municipal Electric Association of Georgia), LaGrange can also offer special cost saving services such as energy audits. Professional engineers will advise local businesses on how to reduce energy consumption throughout their facility, examining everything from light bulbs to compressed air systems. Extra support like this is all in a day’s work for LaGrange’s dedicated city government. “We do offer a lot of services to help,” Mr. Criddle says. “We understand that it is a very competitive world out there and we want all our businesses here to be competitive and remain competitive.”
Almost any business considering a move to LaGrange would enjoy an easy transition. “The community is very welcoming to new industry,” says Economic Development Manager John Sadosky. There is already a strong infrastructure in place – from utilities to industrial parks – allowing newcomers to hit the ground running.
There are already 12 million square feet of existing industrial buildings located across LaGrange’s three industrial parks. These parks also have 1,700 acres of land still available, all of which would be ideal for advanced manufacturing, processing, technology, and more.
Callaway South Industrial Park boasts almost 1,200 acres of land for sale, of which a substantial portion is shovel-ready. Ideally located beside the LaGrange-Callaway Airport, Interstate 85, and a railroad, a portion of the site has been designated as a CSX Select Site, which identifies it as a good location for future manufacturing facilities along the CSX rail lines. “These sites can be developed quickly since standard land issues and comprehensive due diligence items have already been addressed,” Mr. Sadosky explains. This list of items covers everything from zoning permits and utility availability to environmental concerns and local transportation options.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Commerce has expanded Foreign-Trade Zone 26, which covers the Atlanta area, to include land in the Callaway South Industrial Park. As a result, manufacturers located in the park that use foreign parts to produce a product receive favorable duty rates.
Furniture retailer Badcock has already made a $22 million investment at Callaway South Industrial Park, a 535,000 square foot distribution center which will create 100 new jobs. Auto part manufacturer Sewon America already operates a 420,000 square foot facility at the park, employing over 800 workers.
LaGrange Industrial Park has 148 acres of developable land available and, like Callaway South Industrial Park, all the necessary infrastructure is already in place. Kimberly Clark and Duracell both currently operate facilities there. Jim Hamilton Industrial Park enjoys excellent interstate access, and some available lots even boast interstate frontage. Caterpillar Forest Products and Hanil E Hwa operate manufacturing facilities there and Wal-Mart runs a distribution center. Jim Hamilton Industrial Park still has 294 acres of land available for immediate construction.
Businesses moving into one of these industrial parks – or anywhere in the city – will enjoy easy access to LaGrange’s natural resources and utilities. For instance, LaGrange’s water treatment plant has a 22 million gallon per day capacity, but the city is currently only processing 8 million gallons a day, leaving plenty of surplus water for incoming industry.
LaGrange boasts a quality of life to match its business opportunities. Residents have access to plenty of outdoor recreation, including a wealth of water sports. West Point Lake’s 525 miles of shoreline are located near LaGrange, providing easy access to fishing, boating, camping, and swimming. Managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the 26,000-acre lake is nestled in pristine forests and green fields, creating a beautiful getaway. And, to preserve the lake’s natural beauty, houses are set back from the shoreline, allowing visitors to enjoy unimpeded vistas. The lake’s tourism draws include two commercial marinas, fishing piers, public hunting areas, boat launching ramps, nature trails and sandy beaches.
Callaway Gardens is another regional tourist destination located near LaGrange. Highlights include thousands of blooming azaleas each spring, a colorful array of hydrangeas, and one of the world’s top 25 displays of Asian and American Holly. The Day Butterfly Center allows visitors to stroll through an indoor garden filled with over 1,000 butterflies. And, with 6,500 acres to its name, Callaway Gardens serves up a wide variety of activities that go far beyond its famous gardens. Visitors looking for adventure can traverse Tree Top Adventure, a challenging zip line and obstacle course, while a white sand beach on Robin Lake is ideal for swimming. The lake is also open for water sports – from water skiing to wake boarding and tubing – and hosts the world famous Masters Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament every May. Visitors also enjoy nature trails, golf, tennis, geocaching, and the educational Birds of Prey show featuring raptors that are unable to live in the wild.
Art and cultural opportunities are surprisingly plentiful for a town of LaGrange’s size. “We have three different art museums [with] Renoirs and Monets,” Mr. Criddle points out. “It is very impressive.” Wealthy patrons donated the generous collection and help support a range of other local amenities, boosting the city’s livability. Most notably, Callaway Foundation is “a huge benefactor here in the city. They do a tremendous amount of work in the community.” The foundation recently financed the renovation that transformed an old five-and-dime into an event center, carefully maintaining the building’s historic charm. Located in the heart of downtown, Del’avant Event Center is now a popular location for weddings, parties, meetings, and receptions.
Now, the Callaway Foundation is helping to fund the construction of an amphitheater downtown as part of ongoing redevelopment and beautification efforts. Expected to open this fall, Sweetland Amphitheatre at Boyd Park will have seating for 2,200 people, creating an intimate venue for the city’s outdoor concerts and events. LaGrange already boasts a symphony hall and multiple performing arts groups, while Legacy Museum on Main houses historical documents, and the Antiquities Center serves as a living history museum that brings Biblical times to life. Other popular attractions include the antebellum mansion, Bellevue, and the Callaway family home, Hills and Dales Estate, a Gilded Age mansion built in the style of an Italian villa.
“There is a lot of stuff to do and see here,” Mr. Criddle summarizes. “And, if there is anything else that I want to do that is not here, we are about an hour away from Atlanta. I can go do whatever I want and not have to live in that traffic. It is a great location.” LaGrange seems to have it all, from an ideal location and countless recreational opportunities to a low cost of doing business. And, with plenty of shovel-ready land for sale, the city’s many advantages are easily available to incoming businesses.