Soap Creek reopening to boost tourism, economic development
The legacy of a Georgia landmark is still intact: The Soap Creek Marina and Resort officially reopened on Sept. 12. This project includes the restoration of the marina, resort, restaurant and nearby factory for boat manufacturing and distribution by Michigan-based company Apex Marine.
The Georgia Agribusiness and Rural Jobs Act (GARJA) Program, administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, provides an economic boost to businesses in rural areas. GARJA legislation passed in 2017 provided $100 million, which was divided equally across five certified Rural Funds (lenders). Doug Beekman manages Enhanced Capital Georgia Rural Fund, LLC, which funded the Soap Creek project.
In addition to revitalizing the marina and WillieMacs Steaks & Seafood restaurant, Beekman said the funding also helped to induce manufacturing jobs through APEX Marine and attract boaters from across the region. He added, “There are multiple levels of impact on the community.”
Holly Hunt, GARJA program manager, shared Beekman’s sentiments: “Manufacturing, hospitality, tourism and sales tax revenue will all get a boost from this project. This is a big-time success story – a decade-long project in the works finally completed.”
Hunt highlighted the Federal Opportunity Zone (FOZ) Program, which offers tax incentives for investors to invest in small businesses and affordable housing in the area. Lincoln County has a qualified FOZ, which Hunt says brings “unlimited potential” to the area.
Ernie Campbell, Soap Creek Marina and Resort manager, said it is the only full-service marina on the 71,000-acre Thurmond Lake. There are cabins and boats for rent, including a solar-powered pontoon. The campground also has 40 sites.
Walker Norman, County Chairman, said the marina is instrumental to tourism and success. Alana Burke, former Lincoln County Development Authority Executive Director, said this offers a “rare combination of history and outdoor activities on Georgia’s freshwater coast.”
Other officials in attendance for the occasion included Penny Warren, owner of WillieMacs; and John Stone, Lincoln County Development Authority Director. For more information on GARJA and FOZ, visit dca.ga.gov. Information about Soap Creek Marina and Resort can be found at soapcreekmarina.com.