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Lake Oconee: Forward Momentum


Booming Business Base

While healthcare and good schools are important in attracting new business, another prime factor is that people just like to live here.

“As odd as it may sound, we’ve had folks who would come through and visit Madison, fall in love with it and decide that they wanted to bring their business to our area,” says Bob Hughes, president and economic development director for the Madison Morgan County Chamber of Commerce.

One of those was Aalto Scientific, a California bio-technology company and leader in the medical diagnostics industry. The company moved its headquarters to Putnam County this year. The move came after owner Steve Mauro visited the region and decided to buy a house on the lake. Aalto’s $9-million facility in Eatonton’s Rock Eagle Technology Park will improve logistics and turnaround time for the company’s in vitro diagnostic products while creating 80 jobs.

Other new companies have also moved into the area recently. Among them, Virtually New Certified Products (VNCP), which opened in Greene County’s Union Point Industrial Park. The company manufactures small appliances for sale at big-box retailers.

Other companies have completed expansions. Logistics company a2b Fulfillment has doubled the size of its climate-controlled warehouse over the past year. North American Pipe Corp., a division of Texas-based Westlake Chemical Corp., completed a $5-million expansion of its facility as well.

Another promising new business, Farmview Market, represents a new take on the region’s oldest industry – agriculture. The combination specialty grocery, butcher shop, a casual café and open-air farmers market is set to open this fall, providing a way to connect local farmers with consumers. It is also keyed to the agritourism trend and a resurgent interest among consumers to buy food directly from those who produce it.

Its creator Keith Kelly says the idea came to him a few years ago when his agricultural products business began a small company garden for employees.
We thought it would be good to get our employees some good fresh food,” he explains. “I began to look around and realized that getting really, really fresh local food was kind of a thing of the past. People didn’t grow gardens like they used to do.

The company has major farming operations in Southwest Georgia and many connections with farmers throughout the state.