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ATLANTA-Gov. Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism have placed a prime 1,500-acre manufacturing plant site on the market after investing a total $60 million in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade DaimlerChrysler to build a Sprinter van assembly complex in Pooler, GA, a suburb of 8,000 residents, five miles north of Savannah.

According to a spokesperson for the governor’s office, DaimlerChrysler is tentatively shelving plans to build the van site because of weak domestic and foreign van sales.

The German-based automaker “did not have a formal contract with the state or any sort of agreement” with Georgia officials to develop the site, a source in the governor’s office tells GlobeSt.com. DaimlerChrysler “left the door open” to resume negotiations with the state at a later date, the source says.

State officials are confident they can sell the site over the next year to a national or international manufacturing, retail or import-export tenant because of the land’s proximity to water and rail transportation lines, brokers tell GlobeSt.com.

For example, the tract is located off two interstate highways–Interstates 95 and 16–and has the Norfolk, Southern and CSX rail lines running through it. Another corporate amenity, brokers point out, is that the Pooler site is just outside Savannah, a bastion of Southern culture with a large port.

Still, some critics maintain the state gambled in investing $24 million for the land and $36 million in site preparation before they had a firm contract with DaimlerChrysler. The land price equates to $15,484 per acre, or 36 cents per sf.

However, pro-government sources tell GlobeSt.com taking that gamble was necessary because Georgia was competing with Florida and South Carolina for the DaimlerChrysler contract. “In the industrial real estate business, you need to have product on the shelf first before you can do a major deal such as this one,” an area broker tells GlobeSt.com.

The DaimlerChrysler venture would have been Georgia’s largest development project ever. The project also would have been the first auto plant to open in the state since Ford Motor Co. arrived in 1909, followed by General Motors Corp. in 1947.

In recent years, Georgia has attracted several auto suppliers. They are Decoma International, a Mercedes-Benz parts supplier with 350 workers in Carrollton; Toyota Industries which plans to build a $60 million, 130-worker factory in Jefferson; and Pirelli Tires which has relocated its North American headquarters and 500 jobs from New Haven, CT to Rome, GA.

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