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MasterBrand management excited about the future of their new manufacturing plant in Butts County
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MasterBrand Cabinets held its second in-person hiring event in Jackson on Feb. 9 and Matt Shaffer, General Manager for the new manufacturing facility, said they are extremely pleased with the response they have received.

“One of the major reasons why MasterBrand chose this specific location and this geographical area was because of the opportunity here with the people,” said Shaffer. “We’re super excited to be here and are really looking forward to bring our business into this area and taking advantage of the wealth of resources that are here in in the area. We have been super pleased with the reception from the city of Jackson, and just the overall support we’ve received from the community has been very encouraging.”

The largest kitchen and bath cabinet manufacturer in North America, with its home office in Jasper, Ind., MasterBrand announced in November that it planned to open a manufacturing and distribution operations in an existing 840,000-square-foot building located adjacent to Interstate 75 and Arthur Bolton Parkway on Midway Road in Butts County.

Shaffer said they are extremely happy with the location for their new manufacturing plant.

“We’re very happy with the site,” said Shaffer. It’s extremely exciting. It’s a brand new shiny facility and it is super exciting to be able to walk into that and start with that green-field operation (building a new factory and offices from scratch).”

Shaffer had his management team with him at the hiring event. It includes Materials Manager Astrid Strange from Douglasville, Continuous Improvement and Engineering Manager Adrianna Mabry from Louisiana, Human Resources Manager Irma Vento from Texas, Environmental Health and Safety Manager Johnny Keel from Louisville, Ky., and Manufacturing Manager Xavier Embry from Talledega, Ala. Shaffer is also coming from Talledega.

The initial number of employees MasterBrand is looking for is 160 first shift production associate positions. The announcement in November stated the company would create nearly 400 jobs locally, but Shaffer said that number could change.

“It is a dynamic business environment given our customer base,” he said. “So it is really difficult to give an answer on total anticipated headcount and timing. But we have full faith that the community will be able to support whatever that end model becomes.

“We just look forward to the growth in general,” added Shaffer. “We’re moving into a very large facility that can house much more than what we currently have, so it is exciting to be able to have that growth model in front of us.

“This is considered distributive manufacturing. We do the manufacturing ourselves, then we work in conjunction with our customers to do the distribution to their facilities. So we will be shipping products from that site.

“The first true production will be in early April,” he estimated. “We plan on doing mass production trials weeks before that. We’re currently working with Prologis and the local general contractors to get the facility ready for that.”

Anyone interested in applying for a position at MasterBrand can visit MasterBrandJackson.com for more information.

Butts County Planning Commission gets standing ovation for recommending denial of rock quarry rezoning
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More than 200 people, the majority of them opposed to a proposed rock quarry on the northwest side of the county, packed the Central Georgia EMC Annex Thursday night as the developer’s requests for rezoning and a special use permit went before the Butts County Planning Commission. Two hours later, the crowd burst into applause, with many of them standing, as the commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of both the requests.

Tussahaw Reserves LLC and Keys Ferry Crossing LLC are proposing the quarry be established on 462 acres near Fincherville Road, Jack Maddox Bridge Road and Keys Ferry Road. The proponents say their quarry could prove to be an economic boon for Butts County, bringing in needed jobs and tax revenue.

The property is currently zoned agricultural-residential (AR) and would have to be changed to heavy industrial (M3) and also require a special use permit for the quarry.

But residents in the area are concerned about the safety of citizens and the environment in the area, and the cost to the county of repairing roads that could be damaged by the heavy trucks coming from the quarry, and established the group Butts County Stop the Rock Quarry in opposition. In addition, three landowners whose property borders the proposed quarry site have filed suit against the company owners, claiming the quarry would cause irreparable damage to their properties, and seeking an injunction against the operation of the proposed quarry.

The city of Jackson, Butts County Water Authority, and Henry County Water Authority also expressed their opposition in a Development of Regional Impact study done by the Three Rivers Regional Commission. Jackson and the Butts County Water Authority expressed concerns about possible damage to the water table and to the drinking water resource for much of the county, while Henry County expressed concerns about damage to its Tussahaw Creek Dam, Reservoir and Water Treatment Plant.

At the commission meeting, Planning and Zoning Director Christy Lawson advised the commission that planning staff recommended denial of the requests as they are not consistent with the county’s future land use map and comprehensive plan.

At the request of the applicant, Josh Sprayberry, and his attorney, Doug Dillard, the commission allowed them 60 minutes to present their argument as to why the requests should be granted, and the commission also allowed those opposed to the quarry 60 minutes to present their side.

Dillard stated that the property owner has a right to use his or her property as they see fit and that a rock quarry is the best use of this property. He said they would present 10 expert witnesses to back up that claim. Dillard added that those opposed to the quarry have no legal standing because it will be proven the quarry will not harm them or their property.

The expert witnesses reported:

♦ The soil at the location is not suited for residential construction due to the closeness of the granite to the surface, and it would not be profitable to grow timber on the property.

♦ Rock quarries do not have any adverse effects on property values.

♦ Keys Ferry Road, which be the road the trucks going to and leaving the quarry would use, is in good shape and would be able to handle the heavy trucks with regular maintenance.

♦ The quarry would not adversely affect the water quality in the area, the type of blasting used would not impact neighbors or be a risk to Henry County’s Tussahaw Creek Dam, and the noise levels generated by the quarry would be less than two people carrying on a conversation.

Sprayberry closed out their time limit talking about how it is not profitable to raise timber on the site, but that the rock quarry would be profitable not only for his company, but for the county through taxes.

Don Stack, an attorney representing the Butts County Stop the Rock Quarry group, began the opposition’s time by stating that they have presented more than 300 pages of submittals to the commission that directly challenge what the expert witnesses said. He went on to state that the purpose of zoning is not to provide profit for a property owner, but to protect the quality of life of individuals in the area.

David Marmins, an attorney representing the three landowners who have filed suit against the quarry, said his clients and surrounding property owners most certainly do have legal standing to protest the quarry, as it will affect both their health and their property’s value. Marmins went on to state that granting the requests would be the worst kind of spot zoning. He added that a Georgia Forestry Commission report shows that the property is viable to be used for timber harvesting, and that the Georgia Supreme Court has stated that in zoning challenges, the only relevant evidence regarding the value of property is its value as it is currently zoned.

A long line of residents stood up to voice their opposition, but only 12 were able to speak before time ran out. The rest left their written comments, which the commission said would be added to the record.

Those who spoke included:

♦ Representatives from the Jackson Lake Association and others expressing concerns about pollutants from the quarry going into the lake and the water quality.

♦ A woman who said she worked near the Atlanta airport and the nearby Red Oak Quarry. She said she could hear the blasting at the quarry and feel the blasts shake the building she worked in.

♦ Residents concerned about dust from the quarry affecting their health and the health of farm animals on their property.

♦ One resident said the well on his property went dry the first day they began blasting sample holes.

♦ A resident who said his family has owned their property adjacent to the quarry for nearly 200 years and have always raised timber on it.

Following the comments, motions were made, seconded and unanimously approved to recommend denial of both the rezoning request and the special use permit.

The requests will now go before the Butts County Board of Commissioners at their Feb. 22 meeting for a final decision. While the Planning Commission allowed each side a total of 60 minutes for comments, the BOC has stated that it will only allow a 20-minute presentation by the applicant, and 10 minutes each for comments for or against the requests. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Central Georgia EMA Annex at 923 S. Mulberry Street in Jackson. A maximum of 250 people is allowed inside, and everyone entering will have their temperature taken and must wear a mask.

Broadband partnership to bring high-speed internet to rural middle Georgia
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ATLANTA — Central Georgia EMC, Southern Rivers Energy, and Conexon — a Kansas City-based fiber optic company — announced a partnership Monday that will bring broadband service to homes and businesses in 18 mostly rural counties.

The three companies will invest more than $210 million to design and build a 6,890-mile fiber network that will provide both improved electric service and high-speed internet access to all 80,000 of the two utilities’ customers. Service is expected to begin as early as June 2021 and continue rolling out during the next four years.

“It took an intense two-year search to find the right broadband partner,” said CGEMC President/CEO, George Weaver. “Conexon’s commitment to making high-speed broadband available to every CGEMC consumer was critical in the decision-making process.”

State and local political and business leaders have long identified the lack of broadband connectivity in many parts of rural Georgia as instrumental in holding back rural communities.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many students out of their classrooms to rely on online instruction and hamstrung rural companies trying to conduct business, has given the need for high-speed internet even greater urgency.

“Many economic, medical and other challenges facing rural Georgia can not be fixed by a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach,” Gov. Brian Kemp said during Monday’s announcement at the Georgia Capitol. “[It takes] EMCs, private partners and community leaders working together on creative solutions to close the gap between those with internet service and those without.”

Georgia’s electric membership cooperatives didn’t start getting into the broadband business until two years ago, when the General Assembly passed legislation authorizing them to do so.

Since then, EMCs in the North Georgia mountains, West Georgia and South Georgia have launched broadband projects.

Under the deal announced Monday, Central Georgia EMC and Southern Rivers Energy will own the fiber and lease excess capacity to Conexon, which has agreed to serve every EMC customer with fiber-to-the-home internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.

The internet service will be powered by EMC fiber, but Conexon will provide the retail service to homes and businesses and manage account set-up, customer service and billing.

The 18 counties to be served through the partnership announced Monday are Bibb, Butts, Clayton, Coweta, Crawford, Fayette, Henry, Jasper, Jones, Lamar, Meriwether, Monroe, Morgan, Newton, Pike, Putnam, Spalding, and Upson.

“We are marking today this investment not only in rural broadband but in the future of this state,” said House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “This investment will bring the latest generation of fiber optic high-speed broadband to the doorstep of every resident of this region.”