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GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: Industry leaders announce start of Georgia International Business Park

Leaders from some of the biggest businesses in the country gathered in LaGrange City Hall on Thursday to discuss the creation of what will be the biggest industrial park in the southeast in terms of size, employees and investment in the community.

The Georgia International Business Park will cover 10,000 acres of Troup County in its first phase and will represent thousands of jobs and $1.5 billion dollars in international investments. Companies already operating in Troup County — including Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Interface and Milliken — plan to play a major role in the new business park.

“We are calling it the Georgia International Business Park because there are 41 international companies from 18 countries already in it operating,” Malone said. “There are a hundred manufacturers in Troup County that operate in this park, and we have more Fortune 500 companies operating here than anywhere in the U.S.”

New companies like Sentury Tire North America also plan to take part in the project.

But what does the project mean for Troup County residents?

In short, more jobs, more sustainable energy and more amenities like parks and sidewalks are likely to result from the collaboration necessary to form the business park. Many of the companies in the GIBP face similar concerns of how to attract skilled workers to their company and become environmentally sustainable in a way that makes economic sense. The recognition of shared problems that require mutually beneficial answers is why even business competitors plan to partner for the creation of the park and seek solutions with the help of organizations like the Callaway Foundation, which specializes in community improvement, and the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, which specializes in environmentally friendly technology, will help find those solutions.

“When we have in a room today competitors — like Interface and Milliken compete every day — coming together, that is what we are talking about,” Malone said. “We get above and beyond the day to day, ‘We’re against you,’ to, ‘No, we are really together,’ and ‘How do we make our community bigger and better for all of us instead of divvying up the pie?’”

Representatives from Milliken, Interface, Southface, Sentury Tire North America, Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, Groundswell Community Power, The Mabus Group, The Ray, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, the Callaway Foundation and the City of LaGrange. spoke at the round table discussion on the project. Most of the conversation centered on clean energy and how to make it a realistic option for businesses in the GIBP.

“What I see in LaGrange from experiences I’ve had from leading the U.S. Green Building Council to serving as the White House Chief Sustainability Officer is LaGrange has a lot going on, and sustainability is really about economic competitiveness,” said Michelle Moore, the CEO of Groundswell. “When I see LaGrange’s vision as a city inspired, with the amount of investment that is happening in the GIBP right now — thinking about not just what some of the CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] and ECG [Environmental, Social and Governance] commitments of the companies around the table here are, but what many companies who are looking to invest in new facilities are as well. From sustainable energy to energy efficiency to water conservation to water conservation to improving the social equity in the communities where they operate are at the top of the list, not just from a marketing standpoint any more, but as investor mandates.”

With the teamwork of these business leaders, some of these strides toward environmental sustainability may be possible in the next few years, and some projects are expected to take off within the next year.

“It really is a changing point in the history of our community,” Malone said. “We are really putting a stamp down and a stake in the ground that says we want to be the best. We want to be great, and we are going to be. We are not going to stop until we are.”