A really big one that got away …


… or just missed us, depending on your philosophical perspective.

As you will read nearby, Facebook, that California-based social media behemoth, had just two places in the state of Georgia in which it wanted to build its newest data center: Fayette County/Fayetteville and Newton County/Covington, 40 miles east of the Atlanta airport. Facebook chose an existing industrial site fronting I-20 at the junction of four east Georgia counties. Fayetteville came in second out of a field of two.

What was the major difference between the two sites? Ready for immediate construction (Covington) versus still being cobbled together (Fayetteville).

Last year, with signed nondisclosure agreements sealing the mouths of most local officials, the Fayetteville City Council rezoned 246 acres in the geographic center of the county and already in the city from R-70 residential to Business Park. Our news story in September reported, “No tenants for the park have been disclosed.”

That’s because there was only one tenant driving the process: Facebook.

Now that tenant, with its billions of dollars in investment, has chosen another suitor, who had ring in hand and a honeymoon suite already prepared.

So many issues rise to the surface locally, among them, what’s next? Joan Young, head of the Fayette County Development Authority, lays out the case in the accompanying news story.

Here’s the status of the Fayette site: Not ready for primetime. The parcels are owned by at least four different entities, each with their own economic timetables.

The overriding question: Can the “office park” hold together and get ready for the next high-tech tenant who will come calling, or will each parcel splinter off into disparate developments, and will the center of the county — the last big, undeveloped chunk of land in Fayette — lose its single tenant allure?

A data center is about the cleanest development imaginable: No smokestacks, no chemicals, high paying jobs, powered by renewable energy, a magnet for similar high-tech projects.

Would it change Fayette? In the words of a one-time vice-presidential candidate, “You betcha!” Just as Pinewood Studios and the accompanying Pinewood Forest residential-retail project are currently changing Fayette.

Would everyone be pleased with the changes? Not likely. But what’s the alternative in a county that is gray and getting grayer?

I have an iconic painting in mind: On a high bluff, astride a Spanish stallion, a Plains warrior in eagle headdress, holding a lance, watches a smoke-belching iron horse chug across the prairie astride two ribbons of steel that stretch from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun. Aboard that train are people bound for an unknown future of adventure, loss and gain.

Are we on the bluff watching that incomprehensible sight, or are we on that gritty train headed into new challenges, new opportunities?

That great philosopher, Forrest Gump, might say, “I think maybe it’s both, at the same time.”

[Cal Beverly has been editor and publisher of The Citizen for the past 25 years.]