#13Investigates: Is the deepening of the Savannah harbor impacting Laurens County?
Author: Wanya Reese
Published: 6:23 PM EDT May 14, 2018
Updated: 11:24 PM EDT May 15, 2018
LOCAL 2 Articles

#13Investigates: Is the deepening of the Savannah harbor impacting Laurens County?

Chapter 1

Reaping the benefits

Governor Nathan Deal visited Laurens County earlier this year when Valmiera Glass announced they opened a second building. They are one of the companies that located there due to its location to the Savannah port.

With the billion-dollar deepening of the harbor currently underway in Savannah, 13 Investigates how many jobs have come to the Laurens County and why international companies are starting up in the town.

The Georgia Port Authority is calling this one of the most important projects in the country and one worker in Laurens County is already reaping the benefits.

Justin Williamson grew up in Laurens County and now lives there with his wife and 2 kids. Before starting a family, Williamson lived in Wisconsin, and he wasn't sure if he could find a job back home.

"So it was trying to get back and get around the same amount of money," Williamson said

Then Erdrich USA located here from Germany. The German automotive parts company came across the ocean to choose Laurens County for its first US location. Erdrich brought more than 100 jobs, employing Williamson, who is now a logistics supervisor.

Chapter 2

Location is key

Williamson's job includes managing the flow of container trucks heading to and from Savannah, but Erdrich is not the only foreign company venturing across the pond and landing in Dublin.

Companies from all over the world located in the Emerald City -- businesses like Polymer Logistics, Sun Tek Pet, and most recently, Valmiera Glass, which brought 425 jobs to Laurens County.

Development Authority President Brad Lofton says the biggest reason why is location.

"Being near the port, right next to the interstate, and quality of the community, too, I would be hard-pressed to find another community in Georgia that has had the successes in locating new companies," Lofton said.

Lofton's job goes beyond the desk meeting with CEOs near and far. He says the port expansion is directly responsible for adding more than a thousand jobs here. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics in May of 2012. Laurens County's unemployment rose to a whopping 12.3 percent, but in February of 2018 that dropped to 5.5 percent.

The Georgia Port Authority says the port of Savannah supports more than 400,000 jobs statewide and more than 1,600 in Laurens County, according to a UGA study. Those numbers give workers like Williamson peace of mind.

"As far as the home life, it's very good. I get to spend time with my family, and get to come to work 5 days a week, so overall, it's a very great company to work for," Williamson said.

Now once the harbor expansion is completed in early 2021, Lofton believes more companies will find their way to Dublin-Laurens County. He also said the county also is close to Atlanta and business incentives offered in Laurens County make the area a hot commodity.