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Four Star Freightliner breaks ground in Valley

VALLEY — In the 1980s, Jerry Kocan was a representative for Caterpillar, working the Interstate 85 corridor. He made many stops at Exits 77 and 79 in the Valley area and found it to be a thriving, lively place. WestPoint Pepperell was booming at the time, and there was much activity due to the textile industry. Textiles are pretty much gone from the Valley now, but it’s still a lively place. Kocan was back Wednesday morning, this time off Exit 77. He’s now the dealer principal for Four Star Freightliner and took part in a groundbreaking ceremony on an 11-acre site inside the Valley Industrial Park.

The ceremony marks the beginning of site work where a 25,000-square-foot building will be going up. Before the end of the current calendar year, it will be the newest truck sales, repair and maintenance business in the growing family of Four Star Freightliner locations.

“We have seven of them,” Kocan said. “We have stores in Dothan, Montgomery, Tallahassee, Florida and three in Georgia in Valdosta, Albany and Tifton.”

Koran said the three-state area has been fantastic for business and expects the new location in Valley to do well too.

“We employ approximately 100 people in our six stores,” he said. “Their medium income is in the $70,000 range.”

The company will be employing diesel mechanics who will be well paid. Kocan said he’s looking forward to meeting representatives of the Chambers County Career Technical Center and Southern Union State Community College to see if these schools can incorporate a curriculum to train such workers.

Bobby Williams, president of the Chambers County Development Authority, opened the ceremony with prayer and introduced Mayor Leonard Riley, who he identified as the happiest man in the county on this day.

The beaming mayor said he felt this would be the start of many more businesses and industries coming to the city. He recognized council members Cassie Carlisle, Marquetta Madden, Jimmy Gilson, Randall Maddux and Jim Clark in the crowd and thanked them for their support and their work in moving the city forward.

He credited them for joining with him early in his administration to take steps that would bring new business and industry to the city.

“We have purchased over 1,150 acres of land right off the Interstate. I-85 is an opportunity zone, and no one else has this kind of property available. We’ve been purchasing and clearing land for several years now.”

Four Star Freightliner’s commitment to Valley was the third big announcement made in recent years. WestRock has opened a 375,000-square-foot distribution center in Valley Industrial Park and is already looking at expanding it. Business has been really good for them.

The most significant announcement is the decision by John Soules Foods of Tyler, Texas to locate a production facility in Valley. They could be employing over 500 people off Towel Avenue in a few years. They are locating in a 266,000-square-foot building that formerly housed a distribution center for WestPoint Home.

Riley is confident more businesses will be coming here. Valley right now, he said, sits at the top of the list for one prospect and rates highly with several more.

Riley said he met with Four Star twice, and they didn’t seem anywhere close to a commitment to locate in Valley. The third time was a charm – Kocan brought his lawyer with him.

“We had our eyes on seven acres of property,” Kocan joked back at Riley. “When we left we had 11, and we asked each other ‘What happened?’”

Kocan said that he’s well pleased with the site.

“It’s a gem of a location,” he said. “We are so excited to be coming here. We are thankful for the opportunity to be part of the community and to employ people from the City of Valley and Chambers County.”