Admittedly a $130 million project dedicated to waterslides sounds farfetched for rural Pickens County, but, as one member of the local development boards said, if outside investors really want to put up the money we need to hear them out.
Absolutely we agree. There remains many hurdles from a business side, not to mention sewage for the accompanying 400-room hotel.
The water park project seems more sensible on the four-lane where the sewage is feasible and the neighbors more tolerant of large operations. We know that people here are pushing the private developers to look at other sites besides the area near Blaine - let’s just hope they can reach a deal.
But whether it’s water parks or something else, Pickens County needs a boost to our local economy.
Desperate times in this case shouldn’t call for desperate measures -- as in paving the way for something we don’t want. But our existing industrial/commercial job base is so threadbare that we would strongly encourage the economic development, land planning officials and the three member board of commissioners to put jobs as their top priority. This isn’t about developers getting rich, rising property values or even tax revenue, it’s about people here having work.
Let’s face it, other than Restaurant Interiors locating at the old H.D. Lee plant, big news in our businesses and industries has been mighty sparse lately – even though existing operations seem to be doing well. We simply need a few new places that will hire.
We asked several people to recall any truly major groundbreaking/opening in recent years and most everyone came back with a blank look. Walmart, which has been opened for several years, was mentioned and although it’s not new, we’d put the expansions at Piedmont Mountainside as another bright spot in our local economy.
Unfortunately there are quite a few things that haven’t worked out -- at least not thus far. There was a lot of optimism that additional businesses would follow Walmart – which hasn’t happened; a lot of hope that with more sewage on the four-lane we’d see some new buildings, but other than QuikTrip and the expanded RaceTrac – nothing in recent years. This is not to take away from existing merchants like the Bargain Barn, Sacketts, Kroger and Home Depot out there, but it’s time they got some company.
We’ve also had an utter failure with the county-led airport tech park. The project started off so promisingly a decade ago with the idea that high-tech companies would locate here for easy access to an airport capable of landing jets and nearby Highway 515.
At one point, there were concerns that it might generate too much air traffic. But now, almost a decade later, the property remains a barren plain surrounding the airport. The “Horseshoe,” as a portion of the property was designated on plans, looks more likely to house real beasts of the field than high tech companies.
The water park is thought to generate at least 300 jobs. Reader, consider that for second. That’s a lot of opportunities. With that many jobs there would be some for unskilled people such as a teenagers as well as some high paying management positions. We would have fewer young people preparing to move following graduation; fewer older people who have no choice but to commute and fewer people without work at all.
If you don’t think we need this, we have recently reported the schools are serving at least 175 kids in a program that ensures they have food in their homes on weekends.
While this water park may not work out, let’s keep in mind some other crazy ideas, like a massive outlet mall in Dawsonville or turning hundreds of acres of rural north Georgia mountains into exclusive gates communities, sounded equally dubious when they were first broached.