TravelCenters first to break ground in Statesboro and Bulloch’s I-16 TAD
Considering that TravelCenters of America’s planned TA Express center off U.S. Highway 301 at the I-16 interchange isn’t an industry, the groundbreaking Wednesday morning drew an unusual amount of attention from local officials and media.
What it will be is a combination of a truck stop for professional drivers and a convenience store, fueling center and Burger King for the general public.
But as Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch and Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Thompson expressed in their comments Wednesday, after years of hopes, the county was ready to welcome the first private investment in the Tax Allocation District that has existed around the interchange since Dec. 31, 2012.
“We especially embrace your presence here,” Couch said to the TravelCenters of America, or “TA,” corporate representatives. “You are the first significant new development in an 1,800-acre area planned around the interstate as primarily a business district that we tried to put the seeds down for probably a decade ago, and we’re confident that you’re going to be a catalyst for some additional business growth.”
Together, the county government and the city of Statesboro – which extended its water, sewer and natural gas systems far beyond the city limits to serve the interchange – have invested at least $17 million in public infrastructure within the tax allocation district, or TAD. The 1,800 acres on all four quadrants of the interchange is mostly private land, but the public spending has been directed to preparing the roughly 200-acre portion now known as Southern Gateway Commerce Park, in the southeastern quadrant.
The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners approved the purchase of that 200-acre tract using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds back in 2010, before the TAD was created.
In 2018, two industrial-grade roads were paved from Highway 301 into the commerce park. Rocky Road, the one farther from Interstate 16, extends past the commerce park water tower, the farthest extension of the city water system, to a paved turn-around. The TA Express location is on the other paved road segment, within sight of the interstate highway.
Obtaining state grants, the county also had a portion Highway 301 widened to include turn lanes into and out of the commerce park and leveled the land to provide “pad ready” sites, mainly for industries. But 10 years after voters in a referendum granted the county special redevelopment powers and nine years after the TAD was formally established, and with all of that work done, the industries have yet to arrive.
“I want all of you to look that way,” Thompson, the county commissioners chairman, said at the microphone under the meeting tent. “What do you see? To most of y’all it’s a big, barren field, correct? But I see, once y’all get started, which you already have, a bunch of industry filling this whole area.”
He told the TravelCenters of America representatives their company would always be the commerce park’s first arrival and he wished them much success.
Click here to read full article.