Hillphoenix to consolidate Conyers opsCovington plant to remain open

COVINGTON -- Hillphoenix will consolidate operations in Conyers but will not close its Covington plant.

Referred to as Project Dove during discussions by local officials in Covington, Hillphoenix will consolidate three Conyers facilities at a site on Sigman Road. There may be a slight expansion of operations and equipment at the plant on Industrial Boulevard in Covington, said Roger Harrison, vice president of economic development for the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, said Hillphoenix will construct a new 487,000-square-foot facility near the intersection of Sigman and Gees Mill roads in Rockdale County. The 750 employees working at the three Conyers locations will be consolidated there, he said, with the possiblity of added jobs in the future.

Construction of the new facility is expected to take approximately six months, he said.

Hillphoenix was offered approximately $4 million in property tax abatements over 10 years and expedited permitting as incentives to consolidate in Rockdale County, Sears said.

"In addition, Rockdale Water Resources agreed to monitor the water that goes into the wastewater treatment system, so they are only charged for what they discharge into our wastewater system," Sears said.

The announcement of the Hillphoenix consolidation was made Wednesday after several months of negotiations.

"Hillphoenix is one of our largest manufacturers and has a long history of operational excellence and growth in the refrigeration industry," said Mike Sullivan, chairman of the Development Authority of Rockdale County, in a written statement. "We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship."

Covington and Newton County had sought to add Hillphoenix to the community's list of industrial recruits.

"We can't win every one. I feel like the community put a solid offer together without trying to poach another county," Harrison said.

Harrison previously said the project represented a "solid investment" of almost $20 million. Hillphoenix had targeted a site in Lochridge Industrial Park for expansion, which would have brought 900 employees on site from day one, with 600 jobs expected to be available over the course of 10 years through attrition, according to Harrison.

The Covington City Council recently approved a variety of incentives to lure Hillphoenix, including a 20 percent discount for two years on electricity, amounting to a savings of between $2,600 and $4,600 per month for the industry; a 20 percent discount on stormwater fees for two years; the waiving of water and sewer tap fees; and the waiving of permit and inspection fees, amounting to an estimated $21,552.

Also, the council agreed to offer natural gas rates to the industry at the regular rate minus the added "hedge" that is passed on to customers.

A hedge is a financial instrument to place constraints on the price of a commodity, and is typically used when prices are unstable or prone to extreme increases.

Hillphoenix is a manufacturer of display cases, specialty products, refrigeration and power systems, according to its website.

Editor Alice Queen contributed to this story.