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September 24--  September has been a good month for the Toombs County Development Authority.

Earlier it announced a plant expansion and more jobs for U.S. Pet in the Toombs Corporate Center on U.S. One in Lyons and now has reached agreement with TUMI Luggage to grow its Vidalia Distribution Center on Harris Industrial Boulevard.

The company had been considering a possible move to the Western United States which would have meant a loss of local jobs.  TUMI's Richard Lawrence is happy the decision was made to stay in Toombs County.

"The decison was made by the executive leadership team at our corporate headquarters.  The presence we've had here over the past several decades helped with that decision.  We have a workforce with an average tenure of ten years and we have a great management team and I think all of that tipped the scales in our favor along with the contribution the Development Authority made for us," he said.

The Development Authority has approved a $500,000 grant to TUMI over a five year period.  The payback locally is retention of jobs and the additon of more jobs.

"It's volume related.  As volume picks up, we'll need more bodies to process those orders and I'm thinking six to seven jobs a year for the next five years and we're expecting to add up to 40 jobs in that period," Lawrence says.

The Development Authority grant is contingent on TUMI maintaining 200 local jobs for each of the next five years and spending at least $1,750,000 to expand and equip it's distribution center.

"We're looking to break ground as soon as possible and I'm expecting we'll start within the next two to three weeks," Lawence reports.

Development Authority Director Bill Mitchell says it's another positive step for local economic development.

"Obviously it's jobs and investment in the community and a committment by a well known international company to say we thank you for what you did, how you helped us and what it's going to do for us to bring new employees here," Mitchell observed.