Houston County's southeastern corner is the fastest growing part of the county.
County Chairman Tommy Stalnaker says in about 10 years, Bonaire will be almost unrecognizable.
It's why developer Merg Hoffman helped chose Bonaire as the site of the county's newest Publix shopping center.
“We're projecting about 22-25,000 people within our trade area. There's obviously three other Publix within the Warner Robins / Houston County market. We'd be the furthest one on the west side serving the residential market north and south of 96 and east and west of 247,” Hoffman said at the construction site.
Hoffman says the growing number of people living in the Bonaire part of the county influenced their decision.
Since 2014, the county has approved 312 residential permits in the Bonaire area. They approved 107 of those in 2016, and have already approved 70 for this year.
They've also approved 14 new commercial permits like the Publix, an addition to Frito Lay, and other businesses. On average, the economic impact of those permits is $1.2 million.
County Chairman Tommy Stalnaker says the old Bonaire is disappearing.
“What we have known as Bonaire, the little sleepy town or hamlet, is not going to be a little sleepy town or community in the future. It's going to be very vibrant, it's going to be a driving force of the economy in this county,” said Stalnaker. “The way I see it, in another 10 years, maybe sooner, but at least 10 years. I think it will look like the heart of any large city. You're going to see a lot of commercial development in those areas.”
Stalnaker says good schools, a low tax rate, and plenty of employment opportunities are continuing to spur growth in the county.
At least three residential developments are still growing and recently the county has spent more than $50 million improving roads and the water system in the area.
The county expects the expansion of Highway 96 to finish in the winter of this year.
The Publix project is set to open in early 2018 and they hope it serves not only the people in Bonaire, but the Base as well which is just a few miles up the road.
The project takes up 10.5 acres and will eventually have 13,109 square feet of retail space. It also will have 324 parking spaces.
Hoffman and his team also have to additional outparcels of about roughly an acre each that they plan to use for a fast food chain and bank.
The growth in Bonaire is part of a larger Houston County trend.
The county's population has grown nearly nine percent since 2010 to 152,122 people.
In the same time, Bibb County's has dropped nearly two percent to 152,760 people.
In 2010, Bibb County had 15,647 more people than Houston County, according to the United States Census Bureau.
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