By: Felipe Rivas
2 min read May 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the national economy since its arrival in early March. As the phased opening of the local and national economies begins, states are looking to safely move past the outbreak that shuttered businesses, halted economic activity and sent unemployment rates soaring. Though March and April were characterized by challenging economic times for the nation, Georgia’s diverse business foundation proved to be resilient in the face of pandemic-related adversity. From distribution giant Amazon to local, highly-technical operations expanding in the Peach State, the region celebrated continuous business wins in a time marked by uncertainty and shelter-in-place measures.
As e-commerce continues to boom, Amazon looked to expand its footprint in Georgia and fully take advantage of the state’s robust distribution infrastructure. In late April, the retailer announced plans for a new fulfillment center planned for Appling, in Columbia County. The new, multilevel operations facility will feature innovative Amazon robotics technology and create 800 full-time jobs, while marking the largest investment of its kind in Columbia County.
“Amazon’s continued investments in Georgia are a testament to all that our state can offer, including the logistics and top-notch workforce needed for their growing global business,” Gov. Brian Kemp said. Amazon employs more than 3,500 full-time employees in Georgia and has existing operations in Jefferson, Braselton, Lithia Springs, East Point, Kennesaw, Macon, and Union City. “I could not be more proud to welcome them to the Central Savannah River Area, and I am excited for the hardworking Georgians who will benefit from this new operation,” Kemp said.
Amazon leaders touted Georgia’s workforce as a major contributor to its success in the region. “We are proud to continue our investment in Georgia with great jobs and a new, state-of-the-art fulfillment center in Columbia County to serve our customers across the state,” said Robert Packett, regional director of Amazon operations. “The Peach State and its incredible workforce have been vital to our ability to provide great selection, competitive prices and the Prime services we know our customers love. We are excited to create 800 new full-time jobs, with industry-leading pay and benefits on Day One, in the community.”
In similar fashion, local biotechnology company RWDC Industries announced in May a $260-million expansion of its operations into Athens-Clarke County, slated to create some 200 jobs. Founded in an innovation lab at the University of Georgia in 2015, RWDC Industries has emerged as a global leader in developing cost-effective alternatives to single-use plastics. “RWDC Industries is a perfect example of Georgians’ creative approach to solving problems and finding great success, thanks in part to state resources like our public university system,” Gov. Kemp said. RWDC will expand into an existing 400,000-square-foot facility in Athens.
This announcement comes as consumer demand for sustainable alternatives to plastic continues to grow. RWDC Industries is a biotechnology company that develops innovative and cost-effective biopolymer material solutions, including polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). PHA is fully biodegradable and can be used as a substitute for plastic in a wide range of daily, single-use consumer goods, from straws to utensils to cups and plates to lids.
“We are excited to see RWDC expand its operations in Athens and add a substantial number of new well-paying jobs,” said Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz. “Athens is the home of the University of Georgia, and we have a long record of supporting innovation and industry. Like communities across America and the world, we want to see a reduction in plastic pollution, and we have high hopes that RWDC, with the help of the Athens community at their new facility, will be able to solve that problem.”
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