Optimism is high about a potential manufacturing company coming to the Golden Isles.

Wayne Johnson, chairman of the Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, told board members at Wednesday’s meeting that if an agreement is reached, it would bring a $100 million project, creating 125 new jobs with more to follow.

“We’ve been aggressive,” he said. “We’ve got a good, strong seat at the table.”

An announcement could come before the end of the year, he said.

In other business, tourism in the Golden Isles was surprisingly strong over the summer, though the Jekyll Island Convention Center continues to struggle to attract events amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really did quite well considering everything in the travel industry,” said Scott McQuade, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau.

While lodging on St. Simons Island fared well over the summer, motels near Interstate 95 have not fully recovered. He estimated occupancy remains down 25 percent for motels near the interstate. There are fewer travelers on the highways, and those who are traveling have a specific destination.

The motels that recently opened are among the ones struggling the most.

“It’s a perfect storm on I-95,” he said.

It could be worse. McQuade said 65 percent of hotels nationwide are below 50 percent occupancy, the bare minimum to survive.

Restaurants and gas stations near the interstate are also experiencing less business than average with less traffic on the roads.

CVB officials will continue to help promote the Golden Isles amid a pandemic.

“We’re working with our partners as well as we can,” McQuade said. “There are people looking to travel. We have to get aggressive. The pandemic is the wild card.”

The annual Grits and Issues meeting to discuss the shared vision business leaders plan to bring to state officials in Atlanta in January will be held at the Jekyll Island Convention Center at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 11. The meeting to discuss the wish list they plan to bring to the General Assembly is normally held on St. Simons Island, but chamber director Ralph Staffins III said the convention center’s size will enable participants to social distance. The event is open to anyone who wants to participate.

The chamber is also planning a quarterly breakfast to enable officials from the Brunswick City Commission, Glynn County Commission and the Brunswick-Glynn Joint Water and Sewer Commission to meet to discuss common issues. The first topic will be the upcoming SPLOST VII referendum.

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