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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, February 2024
WEB Exclusive story

Chance Encounter Wakes Up Bainbridge

How a gunmaker’s investment triggered a new era.

Photo Courtesy of David Parks Photography
by Gary Daughters

ick McCaskill tells what has to be among the most colorful tales in the annals of corporate recruitment.

McCaskill is executive director of the Development Authority of Bainbridge & Decatur County. Bainbridge, a town of about 14,000 just north of the Florida border, was laboring to extract itself from the grips of the Great Recession as late as 2017, when some men from Miami turned up at a local hunting lodge to wait out Hurricane Irma. They were principals of Taurus USA, a Brazilian-owned gunmaker that, by sheer coincidence, was looking to move its manufacturing operation out of Miami.

“We totally were not on their radar,” McCaskill remembers.


“I can get a permit in two weeks.”

— Rick McCaskill, Executive Director, Development Authority of Bainbridge & Decatur County


Tipped to their presence by the lodge owner, McCaskill introduced himself as they lunched. They weren’t interested. McCaskill persisted, learning that the company’s favored sites might not have been totally amenable to an occupant that needed a gun range, and eventually persuading the officials to have a quick look at a building he was marketing, one that just happened to share an industrial park with a police firing range. In McCaskill’s telling, he delivered an urgent text to the Bainbridge city manager. He wanted live fire.

“I told him, ‘Get everyone you can with a gun down there and everyone pull the trigger!”

A blaze of ordnance got the attention of all concerned.

“They said, ‘Ya know, we think maybe we could do something with y’all.’ Bottom line,” McCaskill now says, “is we not only got all of their North American manufacturing in Bainbridge, but they decided to move their national headquarters here, too.”

More than just its role in a story for the ages, Taurus turns out to have had an outsized and positive impact on its newly adopted home, setting in motion a series of events that helped lead formerly struggling Bainbridge to a w in that’s being talked about across Georgia. For in addition to investing an initial $22.5 million in its arms plant, Taurus brought with it scores of employees from Miami and hired another 300 locally. Partially boarded-up downtown Bainbridge suddenly came alive.

“Their people embraced downtown,” says McCaskill. Now, he says, storefronts are full. New restaurants are buzzing, as are a craft brewery and some other new spots. Above them sits new apartment living. 

“Downtown is the hottest housing market we’ve got right now,” McCaskill says. “It’s the old industrial look with the brick and iron. It’s just been a resurgence down there that coincides with the resurgence that we’re seeing on the companies coming in. We’ve gotten more than our share.”

Bainbridge landed A-1 Roof Trusses and its 130 jobs in 2020. Then, McCaskill and company were ready with a site — supported by $50 million of public funding, he says — when Chicago-based Anovion came calling, eventually settling on Bainbridge for an $800 million investment in advanced materials manufacturing announced last May. The 1.5 million-sq-ft. facility at Downrange Industrial Park, the company says, will be the first of its size and scale to produce synthetic graphite for use in batteries that power EVs and other electronics. Anovion is committed to hiring 400 workers. Gov. Brian Kemp attended the groundbreaking.

His personal conveyance a Ford pickup, McCaskill says the way business is done in South Georgia is different from the rest of the state, in particular its larger jurisdictions, and he sees that as an advantage.

“They have all kinds of ways to slow down a project that you don’t have here in South Georgia. We have protections, we just do it in a common-sense way.” Across the line in Florida, he says, “it takes nine months to get a building permit,” whereas he can get it done in two weeks.

“We’ll hold their hand throughout the whole process,” he says of incoming businesses. “There’s just a lot of service here because we’re happy to have them.” 

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


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