Tag Archives: Brad Lofton

Stealth VLCIA real estate meeting last Wednesday @ VLCIA 2014-08-13

Well, the agenda says the Invocation was “For the purpose of discussing real estate”; it doesn’t say what the Executive Session was for.

Maybe they’ve got a customer for one of those empty industrial parks Brad Lofton talked them into building before he left the state.

Maybe they’re going to build some of those spec buildings they and Valdosta Mayor Gayle admire in Vidalia and Douglas.

Maybe they’re still negotiating with Continue reading

Brad Lofton leaving Myrtle Beach, SC

Looks like Horry County, SC stuck to its initial three-year offer, both for Lofton, and for millage to fund his development authority there. There are things the newly-renamed Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority could do to let sunshine turn Lofton’s local land legacy green.

Jason M. Rodriguez and Amanda Kelley wrote for Myrtle Beach Online yesterday, Brad Lofton leaving Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation,

Membership to the EDC increased earlier this year, but revenue from the membership decreased by nearly $60,000, impacting the organization’s marketing services and more.

Loton has had many projects succeed, and met some challenges during his time in Horry County.

Earlier this month Continue reading

Industrial Authority goes solar, broadband, and conversational!

The Industrial Authority apparently listened to its focus groups, and discovered that broadband and solar energy are important to attract industry. Andrea Schruijer even recommends conversation, which has been sorely lacking in recent years. Congratulations, Industrial Authority!

Jason Schaefer wrote for the VDT today, Authority analyzes Valdosta business: Broadband, solar power, professional services targeted for growth,

The Authority also plans to work toward the availability of more broadband Internet service and solar power in Valdosta and surrounding communities. These amenities would help support local industries as well as draw new ones to the greater Valdosta area for the creation of new jobs.

That’s a good start. Although it’s not clear from the writeup that VLCIA quite got it about Internet access.

As part of presenting Valdosta as an attractive package for prospective industries, the Authority attempts to ready the land set aside for development before beginning the recruitment process. This means investing in infrastructure, including broadband internet.

“It’s not that we don’t have broadband,” Schruijer said. “What we’re looking at is the technology behind the broadband. We have it in certain areas, but in order for us to grow some of these core targets, such as professional services, we need that infrastructure.”

Well, actually, no, we don’t have broadband. 6Mbps is the fastest most people can get around here, and 30Mbps is the slowest you can even buy in many countries. Plus, it’s not just fast Internet to industrial sites that’s needed: it’s fast Internet access everywhere knowledge-based employees may want to live.

But they’re on the right track:

Because the Authority can’t “buy” industries into coming to Valdosta—though it can offer tax abatements—it is necessary to make sure that new businesses have what they will need before ground is even broken, Schruijer said. To this effect, the Authority will “stimulate the conversation” to actively attract more broadband companies to the area.

A conversation! Now there’s something we’ve been needing around here. And it’s a refreshing change from only a year ago when all we heard was

“Debate is not allowed.”

Maybe the Industrial Authority will be the organization that will show the rest of us how to hold civil discussions about things that affect all of us!

The VDT’s writeup skips quickly over another big change:

Continue reading

Industrial Authority still pushing “benefits” of scrapped private prison

The Industrial Authority appears to have learned nothing from the reams of information about the CCA private prison found for them by members of the public. They’re still pushing the “benefits” while saying nothing about the numerous cons (pun intended), the biggest of which is that the state and federal prison population is already decreasing, meaning we don’t need any more prisons, and if we built one here, it would be likely to close. So it’s not just a bad idea, it’s bad business. But here they go again….

Eames Yates wrote for WCTV Friday, Plans For New Prison Scrapped,

Schruijer went on to say “It would have been a huge economic impact. There were about 400 jobs associated with the project with approximately $150 million dollars in capital investment.”

Those four hundred jobs that the prison would have created, on average, would have payed between $40,000 and $50,000 dollars eah.

To people who mostly don’t live here now and mostly wouldn’t want to live here then, while driving away better businesses; she didn’t mention any of that, or the other problems with the whole private prison bad business.

That picture of Ms. Schruijer is hosted on the LAKE website, by the way. The VLCIA website is still broken, a week after I first pointed it out. Is this how the Industrial Authority plans to do PR, still promoting yet another failed Brad Lofton boondoggle while not making anything positive available on their own website?


CCA private prison project shelved —VDT

According to this morning’s paper VDT, the contract between private prison company CCA and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority has expired. The land owner could sell the land to CCA anyway, but that would be without a state or federal customer for the prison and without $5 or $6 million in economic incentives VLCIA was going to arrange, including without water and sewer.

According to the letter Brad Lofton signed and VLCIA sent to CCA 12 November 2009, the total of incentives was more like $9 million dollars of tax abatements for CCA or tax-funded work, all of which the rest of us taxpayers would have to pay for one way or another. All that plus the prison itself would have been paid for with our tax dollars. Tax dollars that now can go to rehabilitation or education instead.

So the people of the community win! Congratulations to Drive Away CCA and all others who helped oppose this private prison project, and congratulations to the Industrial Authority for finally saying what is going on.

Perhaps now the Industrial Authority can get on with bringing in industry that will actually contribute to the community. How about industry that people would be proud to move next to? Industry that would employ local people? Industry that would attract knowledge-based workers and businesses? Maybe that’s what VLCIA’s Strategic Plan Process is about. If so, let’s all help the Industrial Authority achieve it.


Industrial Authority got wetlands easement from Lowndes County for private prison site

Before selling it off to a private landowner who who two years later got a contract with private prison company CCA to resell it for almost 100% profit, the Industrial Authority acquired a road easement through county-owned wetlands from Lowndes County:
Further, Grantor hereby conveys a Non-Exclusive Ingress and Egress Easement in that certain 0.685 acre tract or parcel of land situate, lying and being in Land Lot 153 of th 11th Land District of Lowndes County, Georgia. Said 0.685 acre tract being designated as “0.685 acres — Ingress/Egress Easement reserved for future right-of-way extension” as depicted on that certain map or survey “Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority” dated September 8, 2004 and recorded September 9, 2004 in Plat Cabinet A, Page 2659, Lowndes County records, to which map and survey is hereby referred in further aid of description.
An easement that a private landowner might have more difficulty getting from the county. Isn’t that convenient?

This is the wetland that has not yet been approved for that purpose by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to Ashley Paulk.

By the way, that wetland easement in 2004 was before Brad Lofton was hired in 2006 to be executive director of VLCIA, so the very peculiar history of this bit of land can’t all be blamed on him. The appointed Industrial Authority board and the elected Lowndes County Commission and Valdosta City Council are all also involved.


An Industrial Authority agenda with content! Including VSEB and land acreage!

Yesterday Andrea Schruijer promised to get an agenda for tomorrow’s 2PM Thursday 23 February 2012 Industrial Authority board meeting (101 N. Ashley Street) online. It’s there, and it has content! What it does not have is any mention of anything about Project Excel, or CCA, or the private prison, even though Ms. Schruijer told me yesterday to expect the board to say something about that. You can still express your opinion to them before then. And since this agenda says **TENTATIVE** maybe that item will get added before tomorrow afternoon.

Also missing is any item for the Strategic Planning RFP, even though that RFP says the board will review any responses received by their February board meeting.

What this agenda does have is numerous specific items under the usual broad headers such as Existing Industry/Project Report. So instead of listening to Col. Ricketts and trying to figure out what he’s talking about, you can see such things as “e-Snychronist® Existing Industry Retention and Expansion business information system (BIS)” in writing. You still don’t see names of the “five (5) Prospects” or the “three (3) companies that are developing expansion plans”. Maybe I buy the competitive information argument for the prospects, but I’m not so sure about the three expanding companies, especially if they’re already local. And considering the things VLCIA has tried to sneak in under cover of not mentioning competitive information, such as biomass and a private prison, I’m not sure I buy that argument at all.

Also on the plus side, the agenda includes an actual schedule for bids Continue reading

The health of the community is way more important than the job —Leigh Touchton

Leigh Touchton, president of the Valdosta-Lowndes NAACP, says the local and state NAACP are opposed to the biomass plant because the community that is most affected is the minority community. She referred to her previous presentation of a letter from Dr. Robert D. Bullard.

She also brought up an incident with Brad Lofton and recommended that VLCIA hire an executive director who wouldn’t act like that.

And she said she deals with VSEB all the time:

I’ve taken men through there, I’ve signed them up.
She referred to me when she said that, so what I said before is appended after the video.

Here’s the video:

The health of the community is way more important than the job —Leigh Touchton
Regular Meeting, Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA),
Norman Bennett, Roy Copeland, Tom Call, Mary Gooding, Jerry Jennett chairman,
J. Stephen Gupton attorney, Allan Ricketts Acting Executive Director,
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 17 May 2011.
Videos by John S. Quarterman for LAKE, the Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange.

What I actually recommended regarding VSEB, in response to a specific request from Leigh Touchton for recommendations, was maybe schedule a meeting with Roy Copeland to talk about VSEB and solar job opportunities: Continue reading

VLCIA hires Andrea Schuijer from Albany

According to David Rodock in the VDT today:
…a unanimous decision by board members to submit a formal offer to Andrea Schruijer for the position of executive director.

Absent from the meeting was board member Roy Copeland.

According to Steve Gupton, authority attorney, the three-year contract will include a salary of $100,000 per year. As with all its employees, the authority will pay seven percent into a retirement fund and 75 percent of health care insurance.

Schruijer, pending acceptance of the offer, will officially start employment on July 8.

She’s a former hotel marketing person, according to her LinkedIn account: Continue reading

Biomass down for now: next?

Congratulations to all who worked against the biomass plant: today was the deadline on its most recent extension, so it’s gone for now. Congratulations to WACE and SAVE and NAACP and New Life Ministries and everyone else who was involved, especially Natasha Fast, Seth Gunning, and Brad Bergstrom, who were working against it before almost anyone else.

Congratulations to those who were instrumental even though they were not exactly or originally biomass opponents, especially Ashley Paulk, who came out and said what needed to be said, and George Bennett, who was willing to admit in public that he was one of the earliest proponents of the biomass plant but new knowledge caused him to think differently.

A big shoutout to the VSU Faculty Senate, the only traditional non-activist body that went on record as opposing the biomass plant with an actual vote before the extension deadline. The VSU Faculty Senate did what the Valdosta City Council, the Lowndes County Commission and the Industrial Authority Board would not. Go Blazers!

A special strategic mention to Kay Harris and David Rodock of the Valdosta Daily Times, who came to realize they were not being told the whole truth by the Industrial Authority. The VDT even gave a civics lesson on how to stop the biomass plant.

And a very special mention to the people who did the most to make the name of biomass mud in the public’s eye: Brad Lofton, Col. Ricketts, and the VLCIA board. Without their indoctrination sessions and paid “forum” and stonewalling, people wouldn’t have been turned against that thing nearly as fast!

Yet it ain’t over until it’s over.

According to David Rodock in the VDT today: Continue reading