Commissioner works to keep Kroger, prevent businesses from leaving

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Despite the Pio Nono Avenue store closing, Kroger employees will still have jobs. Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Virgil Watkins says employees will just be placed at another Kroger store.

Watkins is working to make sure every employee keeps a job. He is trying to keep the store from closing, but he says that may not be an option.

“Obviously we are limited at the option to throw cash at the problem,” said Watkins.

With a budget shortfall, Macon-Bibb County’s hands are tied.

“What are we willing to sacrifice or prevent to the corporate community?,” said Watkins. “I think is an interesting question. Is there any potential for us to potentially save or delay the closure and what comes next?”

Watkins has personally gotten in contact with staff at the Kroger headquarters. He says he has thought about how the county can provide gratuity or cash incentives, but with the current county budget, it’s “highly unlikely” they can get Kroger to stay open. So Watkins is looking at other ways to help and make sure that site doesn’t go completely dark

“Using our industrial authority as well as our Urban Development Authority to come up with some ways if the county is able to gain site control of it,” said Watkins. “If we’re able to redevelop it into a smaller aerial.”

These are all options Watkins wants to scope out before there’s yet another empty building left in the county.

“While we’re here and it’s on the forefront of their minds and our minds. Let’s address it and come up with strategies early to see what we can do,” said Watkins.

Watkins is trying to set up a meeting with Kroger representatives, Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, Economic Development and Urban Development Authority this Thursday. He wants to see what the building can be turned into, and how Macon can keep commercial businesses from leaving.

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Edna Ruiz joined the 41NBC news team in October of 2016. She was born and raised in Plant City, Florida. Edna graduated from the University of South Florida in May of 2016, majoring in Telecommunications with a focus in Broadcast News and a minor in Political Science. During her time at USF, she interned at Univision Tampa Bay, FOX 13 News and was the On-Air Promotions announcer for the New York Yankees during Spring Training. She was a USF Latino Scholar and a member of Alpha Delta Pi. She comes from a Mexican-American background and is fluent in Spanish. Although she’s very new to the area, she is excited to be serving the Middle Georgia community. Edna loves to meet new people and hear their stories. So, if you have a story idea or just want to say hi, feel free to reach out to her at eruiz@41NBC.com