Scoring Goals While Going Green

As Georgia embraces eco-friendly economic growth, even Mercedes-Benz Stadium is going natural.
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Local, state and company officials help break ground June 17 on Aurubis Richmond, a $320 million facility in Augusta for recycling metals, especially copper.

Georgia continues to build on the economic development momentum fueled by December’s announcement of a $5 billion Rivian electric truck plant and May’s unveiling of Hyundai Motor Group’s $5.5 billion electric vehicle and battery facility.

A solar cell manufacturer is expanding in Dalton. A massive metal recycler is coming to Augusta. An Atlanta filmmaking facility is more than doubling in size. Middle Georgia is preparing its pitch for big projects. And Atlanta will make its debut on the world’s biggest playing field.

Scenes from the FIFA World Cup 2026 Host City Announcement at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday June 16, 2022. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Atlanta Scores Again

Mercedes-Benz Stadium has hosted the Super Bowl and the College Football Playoff National Championship, and in 2026 it will be part of the world’s most widely viewed and followed single sporting event: soccer’s World Cup.

On June 16, soccer governing body FIFA announced that MBS will be among 16 venues in the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the 48-team tournament. “This is an incredible opportunity for the city of Atlanta to continue to show the world what we have to offer,” Arthur Blank, whose Blank Family of Businesses operates the stadium, said in a statement.

Based on a 2018 Boston Consulting Group study commissioned to support the World Cup bid, the Atlanta Sports Council said the city’s net economic benefit could be $415 million—more if it hosts the international broadcast center for the tournament. Local costs, including security, will likely be $50 million to $60 million, ASC President Dan Corso told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Victor Matheson, an economist at the College of Holy Cross who has studied the impact of the World Cup, said that outside soccer giants such as Brazil and Germany, few countries will bring many fans. So locals will buy most of the tickets, and most spending will just be shifted from elsewhere in the Atlanta economy. Matheson said a net impact of $10 million per game is a reasonable expectation. A quarterfinal or semifinal could be worth $15 million.

The bottom line? Matheson says, “It’s going to make a whole lot of people happy, but there’s not a lot of evidence it’s going to make a lot of people rich.”

Scenes from the FIFA World Cup 2026 Host City Announcement at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday June 16, 2022. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Mercedes-Benz Stadium)

Getting Greener…

To meet FIFA rules, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will replace its artificial FieldTurf with real grass for the summer of 2026 at a cost of around $2 million, the stadium’s chief operating officer, Dietmar Exler, told the AJC. That change on the field parallels green investments around Georgia.

One example: Korean solar energy company Qcells recently announced a $171 million expansion of its photovoltaic module manufacturing operation in Dalton. Construction is due to start in the fall and will bring 470 jobs to Whitfield County when the plant opens in mid-2023. Qcells employs 750 at the nearby plant it opened in 2019. Together, the facilities will represent one-third of the solar module production capacity in the United States. “Georgia has become the clean energy manufacturing heart of America,” Qcells CEO Justin Lee said in a statement.

The Aurubis Richmond plant, shown in an artist’s rendering, “will be a game-changer,” CEO Roland Harings says, “for the environment, for manufacturers and for the larger transition to a renewable economy.”

…And Greener

On June 17, German metal supplier Aurubis broke ground on a $320 million recycling facility.

Aurubis Richmond will be the nation’s largest metal recycling facility and feature the first large secondary smelter for multimetal recycling, the company says. When the plant is fully operational in mid-2024, it will extract copper, tin, nickel, and other metals from 90,000 tons of materials such as circuit boards each year. The facility is expected to bring 120 jobs to Richmond County.

(From left) Aurubis CEO Roland Harings, Gov. Brian Kemp and Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson (Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development) attend the Augusta groundbreaking.

A Place for Coming Attractions

Green developments haven’t blurred Georgia’s focus on the silver screen: Shadowbox Studios, the new name for Blackhall Studios, announced June 14 that it will add 1.2 million square feet across 22 sound stages to its Atlanta production facility, which currently consists of 850,000 square feet and nine sound stages.

The company also is building 18 sound stages in London and 19 in Santa Clarita, California.

Investment firm Silver Lake is paying $500 million to partner with Shadowbox majority owner Commonwealth Asset Management in the $1.5 billion expansion. Commonwealth bought Blackhall from founder Ryan Millsap for $120 million in April 2021.

Peach County Development Site Map, peachcountydevelopment.com

And An Attraction for Coming to Georgia

Georgia has used proceeds from selling a Chatham County site to Amazon last year to piece together the 1,113-acre Middle Georgia Megasite, unveiled near Fort Valley on June 16. The project is a partnership between the state and the Development Authority of Peach County.

“This joint effort will create opportunities for the entire region, and the projects attracted to megasites create a ripple effect of growth that crosses county lines,” Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said in a statement.

AAA-OK

Georgia has maintained its top-level bond rating from agencies FitchRatings (AAA), Moody’s Investors Service (Aaa), and S&P Global Ratings (AAA), Gov. Brian Kemp announced June 13. The state put the ratings to work with a sale of general obligation bonds, due for delivery July 7, to finance $754 million in capital projects, including schools, public safety, and economic development..

The credit rating agencies cited Georgia’s diverse and growing economy with low unemployment and debt and a flush rainy day fund. The AAA rating enables Georgia to borrow money at the lowest interest rates possible.

 

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