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Governor, wife visit Milledgeville

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Ribbon cut at Central State facility

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    Photo by MIYA BANKS

Gov. Brian Kemp joined local officials last Thursday at the ribbon-cutting for the Georgia International Food Center, located in the renovated Bobby Parham building at Central State Hospital.

The governor and wife Marty drove to Milledgeville to tour the facility, as well as to witness its opening. The governor spoke at the event and said he was excited about the facility and the opportunities it would create for employees and the community.

“What’s so exciting is this ties into other things that we’re already doing in Georgia,” Kemp said. “Something our First Lady has been involved with, and that’s promoting the Georgia Grown program run by the agriculture commissioner, Gary Black.”

The facility will use Georgia Grown food items as much as possible, according to Kemp, which helps Georgia farmers and agriculture businesspeople during these challenging times.

In closing, Kemp expressed his delight at seeing everyone in the room wearing masks and encouraged attendees to continue following CDC guidelines. Kemp wore a mask for his entire visit except when eating lunch and speaking.

The Georgia International Food Center has been in the works since about May 2015, when the Maryland-based company Food Service Partners discovered the project, according to Justin Bizzarro, the company’s executive director of business development and client relations.

It started with a phone call from Mike Couch five years ago. Couch is the director of redevelopment authority at the Central State Hospital campus.

“[Couch] picked up the phone and called Food Service Partners and asked ‘would you have any interest in looking at this building I have that used to be the largest commercial kitchen in the world,’” Bizzarro said. “So we built a model in the last five years to work with us and work with the Georgia farmers to get produce to consumers more efficiently.”

Bizzarro estimates the facility will create 100 to 120 jobs in the next year, in the Bobby Parham building alone. He estimates 400 to 500 jobs in the next five years.