Bryan County’s booming growth spurred on by Hyundai was the topic during the Richmond Hill Bryan County Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 State of the Community breakfast.
Ralph Forbes, a Thomas & Hutton engineer who has long moderated the annual breakfast at the Richmond Hill City Center bringing together local business and government leaders, said the South Korean automaker’s 2022 decision to build its $5.45 billion Metaplant America in Black Creek in effect “injected a steroid shot into what was already the fastest growing county in the state.”
Bryan County Administrator Ben Taylor said the Hyundai plant and related projects, including the Hyundai Mobis manufacturing facility in Richmond Hill and an LG battery plant slated for the Mega-Site, will over time add some $8.5 billion to the county’s tax rolls – a figure six times higher than the county’s 2022 tax base of around $1.5 billion.
Taylor said taxes from Hyundai will “trickle down to the digest over the next few years as abatements end,” and help the county fund everything from infrastructure and transportation to emergency services to meet growing demands on services.
While Hyundai’s presence has sparked billions of dollars in manufacturing investment into the four-county Savannah Harbor Interstate 16 Corridor Development Authority, which includes Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham and Effingham counties, the Metaplant won’t begin at full production when the first EV rolls out in 2025, officials said.
Hyundai has said it will employee 8,100 workers at the Metaplant alone, but Development Authority of Bryan County CEO Anna Chafin told the chamber “It will take several years to ramp up to the 8,100 jobs.”
As for where workers will come from, Chafin, who said the JDA is currently involved in a workforce study, listed everything from a program aimed at attracting retired military and veterans to initiatives in the local school system and Hyundai’s recent agreement with Savannah Tech to provide training.
Chafin said workers will also come from out of the region.
In the meantime, Chris Smith, who is chief project implementation officer and general counsel for Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America, said the automaker couldn’t be happier with its relationship with the JDA and local government, which he likened to a marriage.
Smith said work on the Metaplant has been slowed down by recent rains, but “we’re so far ahead of schedule we can take some speed bumps.”
Bryan County, which the 2020 U.S. Census ranked as the sixth fastest growing county in the U.S. and fastest growing in Georgia, had around 44,000 residents two years ago and only 30,233 in 2010, now has approximately 50,000 residents according to Taylor, who said projections have coastal Georgia with more than 1.3 million residents by 2030.
The resulting demands on infrastructure – from roads and water and sewer to schools – is in part being addressed through state funding. Georgia has promised hundreds of millions of dollars for work on roads in North Bryan near the Mega-Site and the Interstate Centre industrial parks on Highway 280, and a new I-16 interchange at Old Cuyler Road is also in the works.
Among the improvements are roundabouts at Highway 80 and Highway 280, where port traffic has gotten so heavy at one point in 2021 it was estimated by a consultant with Thomas and Hutton there were some 300 left turns an hour being made from 80 onto 280, the majority by semi’s hauling containers from the port.
An additional roundabout at the Oracal Parkway, two roundabouts at the I-16 interchange and a roundabout at Wilma Edwards near the Bryan County Schools central office are also in the works, which prompted BCS Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher to quip that “thanks to Mr. Taylor it looks like when I get off the interstate I’ll have to go through give roundabouts to get to my office.”
There are nine roundabouts in the works in Bryan County at present, according to Bryan County officials.