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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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$10 – $20 – $30 Million? Financing Unclear
TDC Committee looking to build something


County Manager Williams explains that the project will require an operating subsidy.

Yesterday's unpublicized Columbia County Tourist Development Council meeting played to a full house, as County Manager Dale Williams presented what the County called "Findings of Fact – Assembly/Events Building. Other than positioning the Assembly/Events Building along the interstate, neither specific locations nor the cost or financing of this project was discussed with any sort of meaningful detail.

CM Dale Williams reported that he and David Kraus journeyed to Perry and Valdosta Georgia. CM Williams explained that the complex in Valdosta is primarily a convention complex, which is something that he believed does not suit the purposes of Columbia County.

CM Williams spent most of his time discussing the complex in Perry, which he said was more suited for the purposes that Columbia County had in mind.

The Committee's findings of fact are here.

According to CM Williams, the Perry Georgia complex took 20 years to get to where it is today, with an investment of $30 million.

The Georgia State Fair is a week-long event which occurs in Perry. That one event pays 50% of the operating costs for a year.

There is nothing like this in Columbia County, nor did anyone discuss an event like this coming to Columbia County.

It is common knowledge that there is only one convention complex in the country that runs without any sort of government subsidy. CM Williams pointed out that that is in Orange County, Florida, the home of Disney.

CM Williams said that the demographics of Columbia County are superior to that of Perry, Georgia.

CM Williams said, "These facilities are seldom self-supporting and will require financial assistance... The best management only provided 75 to 80% return on operating expenses... One day events do not cover costs... Concerts do not make a profit... and outdoor only events, such as car shows, are not as profitable for a facility [as other events].

TDC member Patel asked where the money was going to come from to finance the project.

Longtime County Commissioner Ronald Williams said, "It only takes three [commissioners] to get the money." 

If the County builds anything like what was discussed by CM Williams at the TDC it is clear that the residents of Columbia County are going to have to dig into their ever emptying pockets to come up with an operating subsidy -- that will never go away.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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