By Shannon Sneed
The Eatonton Messenger
August 24, 2017
The Putnam County Development Authority is working to bring down the county’s unemployment rate as they continue to fill the South Industrial Park with big businesses.
The newest industry to utilize the property, which was once occupied by Horton Homes, is Cosmo Cabinets.
The manufacturers, whose parent company is Door Kraft, will be leasing Horton’s previous Line 1-4 building and will initially employ 24 people.
Leasing from nearby Legacy Housing with an option to buy, Cosmo Cabinets expects to increase their staff to 316 within five years.
“They are going to be making European style cabinets that don’t have the frame on the front inside the doors,” said PDA Director Terry Schwindler. “They are pretty automated and are starting out with an investment of $1.7 (million) in equipment.”
According to Chief Operating Officer Tom Boyda, the company is designed to sell wholesale distribution in the kitchen and bath cabinet industry.
“We are hoping to offer employment to local residents starting late October or early November,” he said.
Bringing in the heavy hitters to help grow the community is one priority; making sure the City of Eatonton’s infrastructure can handle the growth is another.
As one entity is successful in burgeoning the local economy, another one is struggling to keep up with the expansion.
The Eatonton-Putnam Water and Sewer Authority, along with engineers Carter & Sloope, are racing to make sure there is capacity to handle new and existing business.
This includes replacing age-old water lines that run throughout the 122-acre industrial park and other areas in the city.
EPWSA Director Donna Van Haute advised PDA board members Aug. 14 of some of the problems at the park since Horton closed a few years ago.
At the rear of the property, a 2-inch water line beneath 2-8 feet of concrete bursts as it goes along.
“We’ve been out there four times to repair it,” said Van Haute. “It’s not an easy repair. It’s been one of those things that we know needed to be addressed because of the way the water lines were run.”
When the water department goes in to make those repairs and shuts the valve off, it shuts off water access to that area, including Dairy Queen, BP, Walmart and Zaxby’s.
A recent problem with the pipes bursting was caught early in the morning and EPWSA was able to have the businesses back on line by 10 a.m.
Van Haute noted there are several meters on the property serving different areas.
“There is a need to isolate that area and have a master meter,” said Van Haute. “They could have water where they needed it, not all over the place.”
Engineers plan to get rid of the current setup, which includes valves, meters and hydrants on the property, and install a new infrastructure.
“That’s private property and we don’t go on private property,” said Van Haute. “We want to get out of there.”
Van Haute said they also want to eliminate the liability for EPWSA and the new business at the same time.
“If this company does come in soon, do they have the ability for water and sewer as it stands now?” PDA Chairman Lynward Lindsey asked. “Can they still sign up for water in their own name and sewer?”
Van Haute said everything is shut off on that property other than what Legacy is using. “What will be cut on and cut off depends on where they need it,” she said.
Schwindler recently announced at an Eatonton Putnam Tourism Arts Heritage Partnership meeting that during the first year, Cosmo Cabinets will utilize the first building and half of another; and, as they grow, they will move into the other buildings.
They will be getting rid of the front trailers near the office with the high school getting one to use as a field house out in the ball fields. After checking locally to see if anyone needs the other buildings, the ones that are left over will be donated to Habitat for Humanity.
“It will clear out a lot of that space out front,” said Schwindler, “and open up parking spaces, too.”
Legacy, who is currently under tax abatement, owns the building so leasing the property from them will give Cosmo Cabinets an advantage of the tax abatement until 2020.
“They will have abatement for city and county taxes,” said Schwindler. “But they will still be paying school taxes.”
Boyda noted the cabinetmakers do not currently sell products to Legacy Homes, “but hopes they will find an interest in our products in the future,” he said.