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SOCIAL CIRCLE, GA-General Mills Inc. has chosen Rockefeller Group Development Corp. to build its new 1.5-million-square-foot distribution center in this small town near Interstate 20, 50 miles east of Atlanta. The Minneapolis-based food company announced its development plans May 12, becoming the largest build-to-suit industrial project so far this year, according to PPR.

New York City-based RockGroup was among 30 developers vying for the $42-million project, according to Kevin Hackett, president and CEO. He says its track record with major commercial projects, combined with a strong capital position, gave it a distinct advantage.

“We’ve also got a good reputation for building on time and on or under budget,” Hackett tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re a low-leverage company and that has benefited us in good times as well as challenging times like now.”

General Mills plans to open its 112-employee regional distribution center in the second quarter of 2010. The $15-billion company, whose products range from Cheerios cereal to Haagen-Dazs ice cream, closed on its 130-acre site on East Hightower Trail late last week, working with King Industrial Realty/Corfac International in the site selection process.

Besides being the biggest warehouse project of 2009 to date, General Mills also aims to make it one of the country’s largest LEED-certified facilities. The rail-served distribution center will include more than 25,000 square feet of office space for the company’s administrative operations, plus an option to expand its distribution space by 143,000 square feet.

“It’s a magnificent addition to the green chutes that we’re seeing in the economy,” Hackett says. He credits Edgar Jones, regional development officer, and John Petricola of RockGroup’s Miami office with pursuing the Walton County project.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue previously stated that the new General Mills distribution center further enhances the state’s reputation as the “corner store” for the Southeast. General Mills has had a presence in the state for the past 20 years with a manufacturing site in Covington.

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