THOMASVILLE — Soon after Shelley Zorn took the Thomasville Payroll Development Authority (PDA) executive director reins in January 2014, she was faced with one of the community's biggest economic blows.
Thomasville's Caterpillar plant closed after more than 20 years in the community, leaving 200 employees without jobs.
Zorn, the PDA's first executive director, said she saw people, not numbers.
Fast forward several years. The then-Thomasville City Council purchased the Caterpillar building to ensure the structure's availability when the right business came along.
It appeared a favorable industry would occupy the building, but the company went to Troy, Alabama. However, company officials said they would recommend Thomasville to other industries looking for a site.
Check-Mate contacted Zorn the next day.
The company, which will eventually provide 230 jobs and a $7.2 million payroll, conducted a grand opening Tuesday at the former Caterpillar building.
On Wednesday, Zorn said Check-Mate is now part of the Thomasville family. The enthusiasm of hundreds of people at the Tuesday event reveals the obvious excitement the community has for the company and the economic riches it will deliver, she explained.
The family that owns the company will move to Thomasville from Long Island, New York. Check-Mate will be headquartered in Thomasville.
Zorn said the family appreciates the community's atmosphere.
Company officials viewed the community's assets as "intentional" during the recruitment process, she said, adding that downtown Thomasville's look was a big draw.
Zorn and company officials talked frequently. She made several trips to New York to meet with Check-Mate officials.
"We were both interviewing each other," Zorn said.
The Tuesday grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony ended with cannons discharging large clouds of white confetti near where the governor and other speakers were seated. The governor's security staff had been told earlier the loud cannon booms should not be considered a security risk.
"We informed them of everything we thought they needed to know for security reasons," Zorn said.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820