iberty County is living an old adage, the one that says that it pays to have good neighbors. Half an hour southwest of Savannah on Interstate 95, its 600 square miles rest within sniffing distance of the tidal marshes that ease into Georgia’s stately “Golden Isles.”
The county’s fine neighbors — like the ones whose teenage kids may have protected and guided your own — have long included the powerful Port of Savannah and the U.S. Army’s Fort Stewart. The ever-expanding and improving Savannah port, third busiest in the United States, completed the installation of four new cranes in September, with four more coming by the end of the year. It’s also adding new berths. Sprawling Fort Stewart, home of the Army’s Third Infantry Division, is the biggest Army base east of the Mississippi. Covering some 280,000 acres, Fort Stewart is a city unto itself, supporting as it does about 40,000 active-duty service members and their families. In their own ways, both are strategic drivers of economic development.
Now moving in is a new neighbor who’s causing tongues to wag not just in Liberty County but all along the Georgia coast and throughout the entire state: Hyundai in September increased the projected investment in its burgeoning Metaplant in nearby Bryan County to $7.6 billion. Now slated to create 8,500 jobs by 2031, the EV facility already is giving birth to a supply chain ripe with possibilities. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp emphasized as much last spring, when he welcomed Hyundai supplier Seohan to Liberty County.
“The Hyundai Metaplant,” Kemp said, “is and will continue to be an economic driver for the entire region, creating more jobs for hardworking Georgians in communities like Liberty County.”
South Korea’s Seohan is investing $72 million and creating 180 jobs in Liberty County to supply Hyundai and other OEMs with H/shafts, axles and brake systems. In written responses to questions from Site Selection, CEO Jung Kee Koo said Seohan’s 300,000-sq.ft. Liberty County facility, to be completed in May 2024, is 44 miles from the Metaplant site via I-95 and I-16. He also revealed that Seohan already is considering a major expansion.
“There are going to be a lot of opportunities associated with Hyundai,” says Ron Tolley, CEO of the Liberty County Economic Development Authority. “We think we’re poised to attract some of that.”
‘A Great Time’ for the Market
Flint Development, based in Kansas City, believes that as well. Flint is nearing completion of the first of three phases of a 2.1-million-sq.ft. industrial hub in Liberty County that’s being marketed to distribution and light manufacturing prospects.
“We are definitely looking at support companies around the Hyundai plant that would need space in the area,” says Michael Miller, Flint’s director of development. “We’re hoping to pick a couple of those up.”
Furthermore, Miller explains, “We like markets with high barrier to entry and low vacancy rates, and Savannah has both. And with all the activity and growth at the Port of Savannah, for us it’s a great time to get into that market.”
Tolley says Liberty County is leveraging what he calls “tremendous growth in the distribution industry” throughout the Savannah region.
“We’ve been able to grab a portion of that, and that’s another place where we can do more. We have private developers,” he says, “that have purchased almost 1,000 acres in our county within the past year.” That acreage, he says, has all been rezoned industrial.
Fort Stewart: How’s this for a workforce?
Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
In April, New Jersey-based YMF Carpets announced plans for a $15 million distribution and manufacturing center at Liberty County’s Tradeport East Business Center, an 1,800-acre master park less than a mile from I-95 and 30 miles from the Port of Savannah and Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport. The new facility, said YMF CEO Yaron Shemesh, “will allow us to grow our business and reach company goals while taking advantage of the proximity to the Port of Savannah.”
Fort Stewart is a Workforce Multiplier
Like Seohan, whose CEO Koo sees Fort Stewart as “a valuable source of well-trained workers,” Abraham Boyles, a former military man, understands the value of the soldiers who retire from Fort Stewart. Boyles is facilities and maintenance manager for Hugo Boss’s oft-expanded distribution facility in Liberty County, the German apparel maker’s “very first point” for products into the U.S. Boss has hired a number of people who have departed from the base.
“Anytime when you’re hiring ex-military,” Boyles tells Site Selection, “you do notice an understanding of duty, that ‘get-the-job-done-yourself’ attitude. That’s something I think all industries are looking for when they’re looking for employees.”
Some 3,500 soldiers separated from Fort Stewart and neighboring Hunter Army Airfield in 2022, says Amanda Hook, transition services specialist at Fort Stewart. They bring skills, she says, in mechanics, maintenance and supply and logistics, among many others. And those are just the tangibles.
“They’re bringing layers of leadership and adaptability,” she says, “whether being able to work with small teams or large teams.”
And there’s this: “The Army,” she says, “is the most diverse employer in the United States. We have people from all walks of life, all different cultural backgrounds. Any service member in any branch,” says Hook, “works side-by-side with everyone.”
For Liberty County, with its legacy assets now joined by Hyundai, the time is clearly now.
“We’re having good recruitment of new companies,” says Tolley. “And we’ve been successful with keeping existing companies happy, which is why they keep expanding. We have,” he says, “a good location, a good labor force, proven success and great prospects.”
This Investment Profile was prepared under the auspices of the Liberty County Development Authority. For more information, please contact Pat Watkins at 912-368-3455 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also see comegrow.global.