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This program saved rural manufacturing jobs. Here’s why it could go away.

Posted: Monday, March 7, 2022

The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act (GARJA) is a critical jobs program in Georgia. Since 2017, it’s created and sustained thousands of jobs, transformed communities across our state, and kept small businesses alive. I would know — mine is one of them.

I’m the CEO of Cady Bag. We’re based in Pearson, and we manufacture polypropylene fabrics and bags. Our products range from the netted bags you buy onions or firewood in, all the way to protective fabrics for steel production and manufactured housing.

We’re unique in the products we make, yes, but what’s more unique is the way we do business. We’re the only polypropylene bag producer plant in the nation that produces all of our products in-house — from start to finish.

Our company supports more than 100 jobs, and nearly all our employees live within 10 miles of the plant. In many ways, Cady Bag is the lifeblood of Pearson and Atkinson County. None of this would be possible without GARJA. It’s been transformational for both our company and our community.

Before GARJA, access to capital was too expensive for us — with crushing interest rates north of 10 percent and an unending list of financially burdensome regulations. We were on our way to being the next chapter in a story you’ve heard a hundred times: jobs headed overseas, a devastated local economy, and yet one more rural Georgia community left in shambles.

But GARJA spared our community that fate. It’s not a handout, or a safety net. It simply provides access to private capital, and empowers us to run our business OUR way — not the bank’s way.

Through the program, we secured an investment that has created and retained more than 100 jobs for our plant, and even in these uncertain times we’ve got plans to add even more employees this year.

But future potential funding for Cady Bag and other rural small businesses will not happen if GARJA isn’t reauthorized by the General Assembly. It has already cleared the House — on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 153-11 — and now it’s facing the state Senate.

My message to any senators or representatives who are skeptical now is simple: look at Cady Bag’s success. Look at the success stories of the 34 small businesses GARJA has invested in across Georgia.

At the end of the day, GARJA supports Georgia small businesses, it has created and retained more than 2,000 jobs, and it generates a positive ROI for the state. It’s Georgia’s original rural jobs program, and a transformational one at that.

This program must be renewed. The lives and livelihoods of my community, and many others in our state, depend on it.

Doug Smith is the President and CEO at Cady Bag Company, a full-service polypropylene bag production facility located in Pearson, GA that employs more than 100 rural Georgians.

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