May 01, 2018

Scuttlebiz: Georgia cattlemen want ‘what’s for dinner’ to be local (The Augusta Chronicle) »

Augusta Chronicle Georgia logo womply

What’s your beef? If there’s some on your dinner plate, it most likely didn’t come from a Georgia-processed cow.

This despite the fact there are more than 1.3 million head of cattle spread among every one of Georgia’s 159 counties.

If you ever fee like stumping the waitstaff at one of those trendy restaurants that pride themselves on serving “locally sourced” food, order a high-end steak and inquire about its origin. If by some chance the waiter, waitress, chef or proprietor actually know, they’ll probably grudgingly admit your prime cut came from Texas, Kansas, Nebraska or some other Midwestern state.

Georgia’s cattle industry trade group is trying to find out how the state can do a better job of “growing its own,” rather than shipping off the vast majority of its yearlings to spend four to six months getting fat (“finishing” is the industry term) in feedlots in grain-rich states before ending up as tasty morsels on our tables. Some believe Georgia could double or triple its $3 billion beef industry if it could somehow do more finishing and processing in-state.

This past week the Macon-based Georgia Cattlemen’s Association announced it has hired the University of Georgia’s Center for Economic Development and Agribusiness to conduct a feasibility study this fall.

“We think that financially, the opportunity to maintain ownership in the downstream process may make sense for area cattlemen,” said Will Bentley, the association’s executive vice president. “Eliminating the cost of shipping cattle out of state, combined with giving farmers the opportunity to own a share of the finishing process, could benefit Georgia’s cattle industry.”

Currently, only a small number of cattle finishing and processing occurs in Georgia – including right here in Augusta at FPL Foods’ processing plant on New Savannah Road, which primarily produces ground beef from mostly regional grass-fed cattle. FPL’s newer Tattnall County operation, Châtel Farms, finishes cows for specialty cuts, but nowhere near the quantity produced by Midwestern beef packers.

Part of the conundrum comes down to taste – and a little bit of food politics. Grass-fed beef from pastures are said to contain less fat (which is bad for you) and be less taxing on the environment (because it’s easier to grow grass than grains). Grain-fed beef, on the other hand, consume a lot of feed but tend to be, well, more tender.

“A lot of your higher-end consumers – and higher-end steakhouses – still want that grain-fed beef,” Bentley said during a phone interview. “There’s nothing wrong with grass-fed, but the majority of people are wanting that traditionally buttery steak taste.”

Count me as being in the majority.

Georgia’s challenge, Bentley notes, is that grain is much cheaper to produce in the Midwest. And much of the grain Georgia does produce ends up going to feed the state’s poultry industry (which is growing) and its pork industry (which is not).

Bentley envisions a beef co-op type approach – similar to what Georgia, Alabama and Florida did by creating theAmerican Peanut Shellers Association – or getting major investors to develop more feedlots and processing plants.

The cost of the feasibility study also is being funded by the Georgia Farm Bureau, Georgia EMC, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, AgGeorgia Farm Credit, AgSouth Farm Credit and Southwest Georgia Farm Credit. With all those groups putting their heads together, someone should be able to come up with a viable vertical-integration plan for Georgia’s beef industry.

Every day, 76 million Americans eat beef. If Georgia producers and consumers want more of that red meat locally sourced, they’ve got their work cut out for them.

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION DEPARTMENT

All this beef banter is making me crave a burger. The good news is, there will be plenty to sample next month when The Augusta Chronicle rolls out its 3rd annual Burgers & Beer Week. Look for some of the metro area’s top eateries competing for a chance to win best-burger bragging rights during the week of June 15-24.

The River Watch Brewery– and FPL Foods-sponsored contest lets participating restaurants build one-off burgers specially for the contest. Diners can then vote for their favorite through the Chronicle’s Facebook page. And hey, if you share your photos with the hashtag #augustaburgersandbeer, you’ll get put in the drawing for several hundred dollars worth of gift cards. That’s one way to turn burger into steak.

A STAKE IN WEST LAKE?: After acquiring West Lake Country Club operations in 2015, it appears California-based Concert Golf Partners is selling the Martinez-based golf and tennis club to industry giant ClubCorp, a Dallas-based owner and operator of more than 200 golf and country clubs nationwide. Both management companies are privately held and have declined to disclose the terms of the deal.

“ClubCorp routinely evaluates and entertains discussions about properties for potential acquisition. Until any transaction is finalized, it is our policy not to comment,” ClubCorp spokeswoman Patty Jerde said via email.

Under Concert Golf, the gated community’s country club operations had $6 million in debt erased and gained a $1.5 million infusion for several improvements, including a banquet hall expansion and a better driving range.

MEANWHILE, ON THE LAKE…

When West Lake residents owned the country club, it was managed it by committee, which didn’t work so well once the golf industry matured and slowed down. But the management-by-homeowner model seems to be working out just fine at the massive Savannah Lakes Village development along Lake Thurmond in McCormick, S.C., where the nonprofit, 100-plus employee Savannah Lakes Village Property Owners Association does everything from maintain the golf courses to pave the streets.

And the HOA also recently partnered with a Boston-based investment company, Savannah Lakes Village Property Holding, to acquire and redevelop some of the long-vacant and underutilized tracts left behind when the main developer, Cooper Communities, pulled out of the 4,500-acre project in 2000. About 2,000 new homesites would be developed during the next decade under an agreement recently reached between the association, the Boston firm and the McCormick County Forfeited Land Commission.

After a decade in limbo, the association’s chief operating officer Kirk Smith told The Chronicle that the riverfront resort community is now “reassembling” and “repackaging” the long underutilized parcels for development.

“This puts it all back underneath the umbrella of one centralized development group within our community,” he said.

SPEAKING OF LAKE REAL ESTATE

Damming up rivers isn’t too popular anymore, so there’s not a whole lot of lake property being created these days.

Georgia and South Carolina is a lake lover’s dream for those fortunate enough to afford a place on the water. LakeHomes.com, one of the nation’s largest lake-focused real estate companies, estimates Georgia and South Carolina’s combined lake real estate market at $3.3 billion, according to its Winter 2018 Lake Real Estate Market Report.

The publication notes the two-state metro area is a short drive from some of the most diverse waterfront real estate in the nation. Here’s the company’s rundown of the five “most-searched” lakes in the region:

No. 1: Clarks Hill Lake, Ga.: More than convenient, LakeHomes says “Clarks Hill Lake is one of the most-affordable lakes in Georgia,” with an average home price of $248,000.

No. 2: Lake Oconee, Ga.: “Augusta buyers prefer Lake Oconee, which has a wide inventory of homes within a short drive (82 miles).” Its average home price is $676,000.

No. 3: Lake Strom Thurmond, S.C.: Homes on the South Carolina shoreline of Lake Strom Thurmond are on average 25 percent more expensive than homes on its corresponding shoreline in Georgia on Clarks Hill Lake, boasting an average price of $309,000.

No. 4: Lake Sinclair, Ga.: “For the budget-minded lake investor, Lake Sinclair is within a two-hour drive of Augusta with lots of homes available for under $300,000.”

No. 5: Lake Murray, S.C.: The company’s says that “even though it’s relatively high on list of expensive lake homes” for South Carolina, Lake Murry homes actually average less than $500,000, which is far less than the other large lakes favored by Augusta investors, such as Lake Lanier, Ga., ($553,000) and Lake Keowee, S.C., ($720,000).

CRAFTS AND CABERNET?

Picture a DIY arts-and-crafts workshop at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. Now picture that workshop with you and a half-dozen of your girlfriends and a couple bottles of wine. That’s one way to describe the concept behind the AR Workshop store opening soon in Evans’ Riverwood Town Center at the corner of Washington Road and William Few Parkway.

The “boutique studio,” named after the chain’s founders Maureen Anders and Adria Ruff, gives hands-on classes for its primarily female clientele to create custom home decor pieces – think framed signs, canvas wall art, pillows, centerpiece boxes, etc. – using raw materials and on-site tools in a party-like atmosphere (read: BYOB).

AR Workshop was founded in 2010 and has since grown to more than 77 locations around the country. The Evans studio, at 3116 William Few Parkway, Suite 2, will have a grand opening launch party scheduled for July 7.

Aside from “girls night out” get-togethers, the place is popular for corporate team-building events, mother-daughter days and date nights. Or so I’ve heard.

CUERVO TO THE MASSES

Leave it to the number-crunchers at small business software firm Womply to discover sales at local independent restaurants during Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and Mother’s Day (May 13) are better than Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve and even the Super Bowl.

In fact, Mother’s Day is the 16th best restaurant revenue day in Georgia, with sales up 48 percent compared to the typical day’s till. Cinco de Mayo is the 20th best revenue day, with sales up 45 percent – powered by a 47 percent boost in total transactions, which I have to assume comes from a round (or four) of Coronas.

ALL HAIL THE QUEEN

Queensborough National Bank and Trust Co.’s growth in the Augusta area market appears to be exceeding its real estate capacity. The local community bank recently acquired an 8,500-square-foot office building on Exchange Lane from the Northwestern Mutual insurance and investment firm for in February for $1.2 million.

The practically new building (it was built just five years ago) off Walton Way Extension overlooks the Augusta Exchange shopping center and will be used to house the bank’s growing operations center on the second floor. Queensborough will lease the first floor to Northwestern Mutual for a year, bank Executive Vice President Bill Thompson said.

“Most of the bank’s operations functions are located in Louisville,” he said. “Due to our bank’s significant growth in the Augusta market and the strong talent pool in the area, we are expanding these capabilities.”

Last year the company expanded its wealth management department into the former offices of the Klosinski Overstreet LLP law firm off Augusta West Parkway.

The company, which recently surpassed $1 billion in assets, is the market’s No. 7 bank in terms of market share.

Tags: , , , , ,