McIntosh Co. Commission resolves to support International Décor Outlet – IDO

The Darien News, August 20, 2015 Issue, Excerpt

Members of the International Décor Outlet (IDO) team, which intends to occupy most of the outlet mall by January 2016, attended the August meeting of the McIntosh County Commission on Aug. 11.

“We are recruiting manufacturers from all over the world, not just China. IDO’s goal is to bring global manufacturing and quality products to the U.S.” — Jerry Lee, CEO/Founder, JJ Atlantic Investment Group

IDO’s CEO Warren Hickernell spoke, “Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you on the part of IDO and the whole team here. We appreciate the cooperation and assistance you have given us in going forward with the project. We are excited about it.

“IDO is going to be a new type of marketing. While you may think direct from the manufacturer outlet mall is already out there, they are almost exclusively clothing. We are dealing with home décor products, home improvement products—things that are used to build, repair and decorate homes–things you find at Lowe’s and Home Depot. However, our approach is somewhat different. It is going to be storefronts. This mall in your town of Darien poses the perfect situation physically for the right type of structure for individual stores. Our manufacturers want to own their own store. Manufacturers will come from all over the world, China is one of the biggest manufacturers in the world. They are quite the powerhouse.

“We are taking the manufacturers, eliminating all the middle men, and they will be selling their products directly to the consumer at a substantially lower price than you find in retail outlet stores.

“IDO has been successful in completely leasing the outlet mall to manufacturers. “It has been very, very well received.” — Warren Hickernell, CEO of IDO

“Obviously, there is going to be a lot of savings for the consumer. It will make things less expensive for the consumer. Hopefully, that will spur, perhaps, even more development. Maybe lower prices. There will probably be more volume of construction, because the cost is down. It’s a new way of marketing…a new attitude.”

The CEO said IDO has been successful in completely leasing the outlet mall to manufacturers. “It has been very, very well received.”

Commissioner Kelly Spratt went with the IDO team to China for ten days in July to meet with officials and manufacturers. Hickernell said, “Kelly was an excellent representative for Darien and McIntosh County in China.” He also noted what a pleasure it was to work with local officials, who were most cooperative. “This is where the first word is not ‘no’, but ‘yes’. It’s a refreshing change; we greatly appreciate what you do.”

He continued, “We are very excited about getting this mall going. This mall will not only make things look better— change the look—but it will bring in people to the area who will get to see Darien and McIntosh County. It is a cute, quaint town. [Their thinking will be] ‘I’m going to stay and have dinner on the waterfront.’
“IDO will bring people in who are riding down the highway; it will bring contractors, developers, interior decorators, who will be coming to see products. Additionally, people will be in your restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, shops. It’s a benefit for everyone. We can actually see an impact to make a difference.”

Jerry Lee, the CEO and founder of JJ Atlantic Investment Group, spoke to the commission through an interpreter. “We are recruiting manufacturers from all over the world, not just China. IDO’s goal is to bring global manufacturing and quality products to the U.S.

“We can help the local economy, local employment. We start at Darien—our first mall—which could bring over 200 employment opportunities. We are also looking for other economic opportunities,” Lee said.

Lee pointed out two important issues that the company needs help from the local government. The first issue is immigration, he said. And the second issue is that the company is seeking a tax break the first two years in the business. By the third year, the company would pay more taxes. He wishes to bring Chinese officials to this community to visit and let them see the area. “We will work together to make a better economy for the city here,” Lee concluded.

County Manager Brett Cook explained the Commission’s stance on the IDO project. “I want to take this opportunity to note succinctly, why it is we are embracing this particular business model. IDO has been aware of this outlet mall for some time and the decline it has had on the impact of the local economy.

“When the outlet mall was thriving 10 to 15 years ago, our sales tax was considerably higher than it is now, which has put a big strain on financing local governments. However, in the past several years, we have discussed several reuses of the mall and it has been important for us to primarily understand that the best reuse of the mall is a point of sale. But, that has become increasingly difficult. We spoke about clothing. Clothing in that mall is no longer practical. There are outlet malls in close proximity to the north and south.

“So, when I first became aware of IDO and the business model, to me it was like we had personally written a business plan for something that was most beneficial for us, because it alleviates all of the doubt that we would have a business such as that being successful. For us, it checks all the boxes: point of sale; creates jobs; potential to fill the outlet mall; and ancillary benefits.

“… With the outlet mall full, we will probably see other businesses relocate here. We can’t imagine all the benefits we are going to have. Economic development creates a ripple effect. “… We see this as being viable and also the perfect form of economic development in that facility. It is the perfect use,” Cook said.
Spratt added, “… We thank Wally Orrel with the Development Authority and Troy Hull with Georgia Power for working together and all other entities working behind the scene.” She said the resolution is a good way for the county to show support formally to the Chinese government.

The Commission resolved, “that the County, acting as a political subdivision of the State, does hereby agree to support IDO at the state level and to facilitate the process of IDO locating in Darien. In addition, the Board resolves that staff and other officials will contact State or Federal officials for the purpose of promoting IDO or assisting in matters such as immigration or any other matter that may arise. The Board looks forward to forming a partnership with IDO for the purpose of promoting the Outlet Mall and furthering the likelihood that this concept shall become a reality.”

Said Cook, “We will assist IDO in any need that they will have in the future whatever that may be, as detailed as immigration or incentives at the state level. We are acknowledging that we are formalizing a partnership.”