It drew a gubernatorial visit for the groundbreaking and press coverage hailing a southern textile renaissance, but five years later, a $70 million Indian investment in Screven County has failed to materialize.
Shrivallabh Pittie Group was to set up a 250-job factory in Sylvania within an industrial park pre-certified by the state to accelerate investment.
According to the Indian company’s website, which still lists the project, the plan was to export spun cotton yarn to apparel factories across the Americas and in China. The factory would turn a profit in five years and would indirectly create 800 more Georgia jobs, the company said.
But when the winds of the global economy shifted, the project evaporated — at least for coastal Georgia.
It’s unclear what changed about the company’s plans and whether it’s still looking at the U.S. market, but signs point to a global strategy shift for a company that makes yarn spinning facilities both at home and abroad.
Just last month, the Pittie Group reportedly opened a plant in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman, a planned $300 million complex that will include four separate facilities. It also lists an Ethiopian outpost among its investments.
Such promise unrealized could be construed as a cautionary tale for Georgia communities that spend significant energy and funds welcoming foreign investors, only to end up with nothing in the end.
The state had promised incentives like training and jobs tax credits that would have been based on company activity, but didn’t expend any funds directly the project.
This is the second Indian investment debacle the area has weathered in recent years Medient Studios promised to build the U.S.’s largest film studio on 1,000-plus acres, but the company went bust before it could even begin construction.
Effingham County spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on expenses related to recruiting the company, the Savannah Morning News reported, not including site preparations. The Securities and Exchange Commission later charged executives of Medient and its successor companies with fraud. Last August the SEC won a $1.8 million judgment against Medient in federal court.
All that aside, Dorie Bacon of the Screven County Industrial Development Authority hasn’t soured on foreign investment. The coastal Georgia region has been a magnet for foreign firms, especially those looking to set up shop close to the Savannah and Brunswick ports.
“Is that particular company on my Christmas card list anymore? No, but international investment has to be part of your strategy if you want to have a diversified economy,” Ms. Bacon told Global Atlanta.
More than 50 percent of the prospects scouting locations in the county are foreign companies, she said.
“We see a fair amount of Indian projects here; I’m sure we’ll see more in the future,” Ms. Bacon said.
She added that Screven is a member of the World Trade Center Savannah and joined one of its trade missions to Germany in an effort to raise the county’s global profile.
But things have been moving ahead even after the “unfortunate” incident with Pittie Group. ELK International spent $2 million to upgrade a 400,000-square-foot textile facility into a home products distribution center, and Claxton Poultry Farms is setting up a $12 million deboning and packing plant on part of the 68 acres that Pittie would have occupied.
Koyo Bearings, a Japanese manufacturer, bought and still runs factory that has been in the county for 45 years, with Milliken & Co. operating a fire-retardant textile plant that has been in the area for six decades, Ms. Bacon said.
“Usually when a plant decides to come to Screven County they come here for a very long time.”
Editor’s note: Global Atlanta will travel to India in late January to report on Indian investment in the South. Ideas for connections we should cover? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.