Publix ribbon cutting

Front row from left, Glenn Fogle, Moultrie store manager; Ronald and Charlotte Dempsey, local retired Publix employees with a combined 75 years of service to the company; Tommie Beth Willis, president of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce; and Terry Clark, chairman of the Colquitt County Commission. Back row, Amy Sumner of the chamber of commerce, Moultrie City Councilwoman Lisa Clark Hill; Mayor Bill McIntosh; Dwaine Stevens, media and community relations manager for Publix; City Councilwoman Suzie Magwood-Thomas; and Pete Dillard, city manager.

MOULTRIE, Ga. – The opening of the Publix supermarket on Veterans Parkway at Georgia Highway 37 was probably the most visible new business that opened in Moultrie in 2016, but there were others and more are expected in the coming months.

Expansions of existing businesses also bode well for the county’s economic development.

In recent months, National Beef completed a $9 million expansion and BUDK Worldwide added 24,000 square feet to its facility.

The City of Moultrie granted 85 business licenses in the last year and Amy Johnson of the city’s Main Street Program listed a number of new businesses downtown that have resulted in some 45 jobs.

Darrell Moore, CEO and president of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Development Authority, says lower unemployment also figures for the community.

“I think we are competing well with the rest of the region,” Moore said.

The 45,600 square-foot Publix store opened on Nov. 9 with some 120 associates, including about 40 full-time, expected to be employed.

Publix is privately owned by its 187,500 employees with sales in 2015 of $32.4 billion.

The company has 1,130 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina and has been named one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For in America” for 19 straight years.

Publix is the anchor of a shopping center that is expected to have at least two restaurants, a pet store and nail salon and a hair salon. Great Clips has already opened in the center.

Moore said a Mexican restaurant and Japanese restaurant are expected to open in the center in 2017.

There also are three outparcels at the Publix site that are expected to be filled by retail businesses.

Chuck McGee, director of retail development for Teramore Development, the Thomasville developer behind the project, said recently that ‘We’ll have some things opening in January, February and March.”

“There is going to be stuff ongoing,” McGee said. “We firmly believe in Moultrie. We think it’s a great area.”

Just having a store with Pubix’s reputation is a plus for the community, Moore said when the store opened.

“Retailers follow other retailers,” he said. “That name makes it more attractive. I think (2016), ’17 will be good for retail.”

Grocery shoppers who might ordinarily go out of town to buy groceries might now buy locally, enabling sales tax revenue to grow.

As Moore noted, “Three cents out of every dollar is going to stay here and support our county and city and school board.”

Since the economic downturn in 2009, sales tax revenues have been down.

Moore also noted that a building housing Starbucks and AT&T opened this year on Veterans Parkway. He said a Firehouse Subs is expected to open soon.

Also, the building of the Sabal Trail in Colquitt County has added 75-100 jobs.

The announcement that a medical college could open in Moultrie as early as 2018 also is good news for economic development.

And although it happened in 2015, the announcement that National Beef invested $9 million in its Moultrie operation adding some 200 jobs was an economic stimulus.

It came two-and-a-half years after the company cut 283 jobs following the loss of a large contract with Walmart.

National Beef opened in Moultrie in 2001 in the former Swift and Co. plant on the West Bypass with 120 employees and grew to more than 400 before the layoffs.

With last year’s investment, employment was expected to reach well over 400.

The recent expansion at BUDK, located on 10 acres on Georgia Highway 319 South, is significant, Moore said, noting that the company also added jobs.

Established in 1989, BUDK sells swords, knives, medieval weaponry, fantasy collectibles, air guns, blow guns, stun guns and more online.

Among the new tenants in downtown Moultrie is Affinity Apparel, which bought out Riverside Manufacturing.

The company occupies the recently renovated building located at 24 First Ave. N.E., across from City Hall.

The second floor of the building includes loft apartments.

Work has already begun on the Hen House Restaurant at 125 First Ave S.E., in the former Blue Sky Grill location.

Dustmade Studio, owned by Anna and Christian Edwards, has opened at 302 First Ave. S.E., across from the Barbecue Pit and Backwoods Customs has located at 122 S. Main St.

Chancy Drugs, which also has locations in Valdosta, Hahira, Adel and Lake Park, bought out Arwood Drugs early last year, and has renovated that building.

Also downtown, attorney Kimber L. Smith and United Transfers have opened offices in the Colquitt Hotel.

ABC Salon is now open at 28 First Ave. S.W. and the Macon engineering firm of Carter and Sloope has opened an office at 415 S. Main St.

“We're pleased with the downtown area in 2016,” Johnson said.

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