JDA exploring marine industrial park idea
The marine industry might find a home at the former paper mill site in St. Marys if the Joint Development Authority can successfully market an idea it is currently developing.
At the authority’s May 20 meeting, JDA executive director James Coughlin explained a concept for a marine industrial park at the waterfront site. Specifically, it would occupy about 65 acres near the Meeting Street boat ramp, which is heavily used by recreational boaters and fishermen.
The JDA is hoping a marine industrial operation nearby would be complementary to what is already at the St. Marys waterfront along the North River.
“We are close to the market that these people are after,” Coughlin said.
Coughlin explained to the authority that the marine industry is leaving Florida in search of cheaper places to manufacture and operate. North Carolina is one state that has benefitted from that exodus, said Coughlin, who is researching what some communities there have been doing to lure those companies to town.
The proposed complex would allow for boat manufacturing, including showrooms where customers can see the products and accessories, and boat storage for hurricanes or during the off season.
Coughlin listed the possible benefits:
• Tax base
• Catalyst for adaptive reuse of former mill site
• Employment base to support downtown retail businesses
• Opportunities for tourism-related events
• Opportunity to capture related industries
He told authority members that he planned to conduct a feasibility study to present at the July meeting. He also said he has contacted the prospective owner of the mill site and was given some ideas for how to develop that idea.
Authority members asked Coughlin to get a purchase price for that portion of the property as part of the feasibility study.