Trend Radar: February 2008

ASTA To Burke: Georgia’s international corporate community continues to grow. As 2007 was winding down, there came the announcement that the Malaysian manufacturer ASTA Inc. would locate its first U.S. plant in Burke County near Waynesboro. ASTA produces a number of copper products, notably wiring.

Waynesboro is building on its reputation as a power center with the presence of Plant Vogtle, a nuclear power generator, as well as that of a high voltage transformer manufacturer. Another attraction for ASTA was ease of access to the Port of Savannah and the ports in Charleston and Brunswick, says Burke County Development Authority Executive Director Jerry Long.

“The Savannah River Parkway is being completed now and that will make the access to that port even easier,” Long says. “They did ask about access to the ports and I think that was one of the main reasons [they selected a site in Burke County].” Georgia was competing head-to-head with a location in South Carolina (Orangeburg) for the ASTA plant.

The company is retrofitting the former Cummins Filtration building and will put $1.5 million to $2 million into the site. ASTA will begin operations in 2009 with 100 employees, but that number could grow quickly to 300 new jobs, depending on product demand, says Long, who credits Georgia’s incentive programs with playing a role in landing the ASTA project.

Peanut Possibilities: The concept of powdered peanut butter carries about the same appeal as that of powdered milk or powdered eggs, but that didn’t stop Tifton entrepreneur J.C. Bell from exploring the possibilities back in 2006 when his agriculture research center, Bell Plantation, was looking for new uses for the legume. After crushing the peanut for its oil, Bell began looking around for a use for the pulp that was left behind.

“The remaining solids were used in recipes for other products like a peanut cracker,” Bell says. But, in a “eureka” moment, he decided to turn the solids into a powder, add a little water and see what happened. That’s when Bell’s powdered peanut butter product, PB2, came to life.

Mixing one tablespoon of water with two tablespoons of PB2 produces a creamy peanut butter. But who would want it? As it turned out, dieters, nutrition-conscience eaters, health enthusiasts and enough of the rest of the population to produce $1 million in sales in 2007, PB2’s first year on the market.

PB2, it seems, has 75 percent less fat than the regular stuff and only about 25 percent of the calories. But what about the taste test?

“You can’t tell the difference,” Bell says. So far, researchers at Bell Plantation have created about 20 new peanut products including Extra Virgin Peanut Oil, peanut wafers and a peanut bread that he claims has one huge fan. “Governor Perdue loves it,” says Bell, who promises four new peanut products will come on the market this year.

Categories: Economic Development Features, Features