August 16, 2013

Deal says ‘great things coming’ for area

Charles Oliver
charlesoliver@daltoncitizen.com

— Three months ago, Engineered Floors Chairman and CEO Robert E. “Bob” Shaw said the Dalton-based company planned an expansion in northwest Georgia that could create some 2,000 new jobs during the next five years.

On Thursday, the Georgia Department of Labor held a job fair in Dalton to help the company fill the first of those jobs.

So it isn’t surprising that Gov. Nathan Deal says he is “impressed” with what is happening in the Greater Dalton area. Deal met Thursday afternoon with elected officials and business leaders from Whitfield and Murray counties before attending a fundraiser at Trevitt Hall.

“We wanted to see what is happening here with industry and economic development, and I was very impressed with what we heard,” Deal said. “The things that are going on here — the cooperation between Whitfield and Murray counties — makes it easier for the state economic development department. There are great things coming. We have some major projects we hope are right around the bend, and we hope some of them will be in this area.”

Deal will leave Monday on a trade mission to Asia and state Sen. Charlie Bethel, R-Dalton, will accompany him. Bethel noted that China is a fast-growing market for the floorcovering industry and that companies headquartered in or near Dalton, such as Shaw Industries and Mohawk Industries, have opened or acquired facilities there to serve that market.

“We are opening a new trade office in Qingdao,” Deal said. “That’s a seaport town that has trading relationships with the Port of Savannah. We are stopping in Japan on the way back. Those countries represent a large segment of the business we do overseas as well as a significant share of the foreign investment here in Georgia.”

Bethel said the trip is “first and foremost about expanding the existing relationships we have with our trading partners and building new relationships.”

Deal noted the U.S. Senate has passed a bill that would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the deepening of the Port of Savannah.

“We hope that the House of Representatives will act on that soon, and we hope that President Obama will include a significant amount of money for that project in his next budget,” Deal said.

In an appearance on “The Tonight Show” earlier this month, the president told host Jay Leno  that the United States needs deeper ports to remain competitive and mentioned the ports of Savannah, Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., specifically.

“We have also heard that the vice president may be coming soon to visit the Port of Savannah,” Deal said. “I think that is a sign that the administration is paying significant attention to the deepening projects of the ports of the United States, especially on the East Coast.”