$2.5M travel center coming to Opp

Published 12:05 am Friday, October 5, 2012

Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar shakes hands with Southwest Georgia Oil Co. Vice President Aaron Goodman, while Covington County Economic Development Commission President Rick Clifton looks on. | Kendra Bolling/Star-News

A $2.5 million travel center was announced Thursday, bringing with it 30 jobs and an estimated $50,000 to $80,000 sales tax revenue yearly for the city of Opp.

Officials from the city of Opp and the Covington County Economic Development Commission along with Southwest Georgia Oil Co., announced the project, which will be constructed on a 2.5-acre lot at the intersection of Hwys. 84 and 331.

Company Vice President Aaron Goodman said his company has been in business in Bainbridge, Ga., for the past 50 years, and purchased the Big/Little Stores about five years ago. The stores are now called Inland.

Covington County Economic Development President Rick Clifton contacted Goodman about two weeks ago and the rest is history.

Goodman said his company was in the market to build its next store, which will bring the total to 26 stores in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

The company has locations in River Falls, Brantley, Daleville, Elba, Dothan, Enterprise, Hartford, Kinston, New Brockton, Ozark, Samson and Slocomb in Alabama.

Goodman said when he was contacted by Clifton he was actually en route to Biloxi, Miss., and met Clifton at the future site.

“I looked at the site for about three minutes and said, ‘It’s a done deal,’” he said. “I’ve been in business for 25 years, and I’ve never been embraced anywhere like I have been in Opp.”

Clifton, who took the reigns at the CCEDC in July, said he has been working on getting a retail establishment on the bypass since he started.

“It’s great when all the work you do culminates,” he said. “We hope this will jump start bypass development. (Southwest Georgia Oil) stepped up to the plate.”

Goodman said the travel center will consist of a gas station with gasoline and diesel lanes and will include two restaurants.

Restaurants will include Inland’s home-cooked propriety food, including homemade biscuits, fried chicken and the likes, and a barbecue restaurant.

“We are also doing a feasibility to maybe have something else,” Goodman said. “I hope fried chicken will work.”

Goodman estimates it will take from 30 to 90 days to develop plans for the project.

“We want to make sure we go with the latest and greatest,” he said. “We’ll do the site work before.”

Goodman said he anticipates as little as four months for the project’s completion to eight months, but definitely no more than a year.

“We hope to be pumping gas within the next year,” he said.

Goodman said he plans to use local contractors.

“We always lean toward that,” he said. “We certainly encourage all the local folks.”

Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar called the announcement “a really good day for Opp.”

“We’ve been looking for this for years,” he said. “We actually had two interested, but we picked the one that was ready to put the shovel in the ground. Everything has just fallen into place. We hope this will create a domino effect on the bypass. So it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”

Edgar said the final details of the project will be finalized on Monday because the Utilities Board owns the property.

Edgar said the property will be leased for 30-years in a lease-purchase setup.

“We don’t have enough utility board members in town to do it this week,” he said. “But we will meet Monday to finalize the actual price. Southwest Georgia Oil is going to build the public access roads from 331 to the center.

“We are very excited to have the company invest in the city of Opp,” Edgar said. “We have been searching for someone for a longtime. Creating jobs is very important for our city to grow.”