Day 130: Volvo Says "Nej" to Savannah
For the past year, a group of Savannah movers and shakers have been sweet-talking the Swedes into building their first U.S. assembly plant just off Interstate 16 in Bryan County, a project that would've brought a $500 million investment and more than 4,000 jobs to our area. Friday night, after the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) had been called in to sweeten the deal, Volvo ran across the river to South Carolina, and around the same time that (SDRA) Savannah Development And Renewal Authority was throwing a block party for itself in City Market, the City of Charleston was throwing an even bigger party to celebrate the deal that will bring Volvo to Berkeley County. Too little too late, is the way one of the Savannah developers sums up the manner in which we lost the inside track.
Not only did we lose the Volvo plant in Bryan County, another $40 million deal that would have established their offices in 40,000 sq. ft. of prime downtown Savannah office space also fell apart. In coming to this decision, Johannes Gustav of Sweden's Consul to Georgia noted that Savannah lacks a trained workforce, a lack of continuity between the City of Savannah and Chatham County, and "chaos in the street" crime-wise, prompting Volvo to seek space elsewhere.
Volvo becomes the third major international concern, along with Mercedes-Benz and Boeing, to pass on Savannah in the past two years. And the local developers who are tired of coming in second are quick to point up the fact that there is a direct correlation between our failure to launch and our failure to provide a trained workforce, also noting the direct correlation between crime and education.
Developers are calling for a stronger partnership between the local Board of Education and the City of Savannah in finally coming to terms with these long-term problems. Then again, they'll tell you they've been asking for these improvements for a very long time without result.
Edited: Corrected Reference - 6:42pm 5/11/15