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Thursday, December 16, 2010 - 11:10am

Savannah Nets Rural Development Funds

A state program designed to help rural areas shift away from tobacco economies has awarded a $7 million grant to a big national corporation based in one of Georgia's large cities.

Gulfstream Aerospace is getting the money because officials note the company's statewide impact.

Gulfstream was by far the largest recipient of this year's One Georgia grants.

Governor Sonny Perdue announced the grants Wednesday and most were half-million-dollar-or-less awards to help rural areas start up new businesses.

Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley says, Gulfstream's reach goes far beyond Metro Savannah.

"Seventy-seven counties have a resident that works at Gulfstream," Brantley says.

One Georgia Executive Director Nancy Cobb calls Gulfstream a "Gold Standard employer."

"There are significant numbers of employees that live in Screven County, that live in Jenkins County, that live in McIntosh County. I could go on and on," Cobb says. "So that tells me that they are pretty much a statewide employer."

The next-largest grant, $4 million, goes to South Georgia's Coffee County to re-open the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant.

One Georgia grants were set up to distribute one-third of the millions of dollars the state gets each year from a 1998 settlement of a tobacco industry lawsuit.

The money is aimed at rural areas, which are more affected by the loss of tobacco industry jobs.

Two-thirds of each year's settlement money goes to the general budget.

Less than 2% goes to smoking prevention.

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