MOULTRIE -- Lowe's is returning to Moultrie and this time in a much bigger fashion.

A big sign was erected Thursday along Veterans Parkway indicating the future home of Lowe's home improvement center, which is expected to hire between 125 and 150 workers will be built there soon.

Moultrie businessman Willard Lasseter and his son Lynn are in the process of selling the tract to North Carolina developers, Jemsite Development, which would build the store. The City of Moultrie recently rezoned those 19.76 acres at Doc Darbyshire Road from agricultural to commercial.

The parties involved were contacted Wednesday afternoon but would not speak on the record of the project. But Jennifer Smith, representing Lowe's, said Lowe's is in the midst of the most aggressive expansion in company history, "constantly evaluating hundreds of sites across the U.S." More than 26,000 jobs were created in fiscal 2003.

If the deal comes through, there will be five Lowe's within about 35 minutes of each other in Southwest Georgia. Already, Lowe's has super centers in Tifton, Thomasville, Albany and Valdosta.

Lowe's had a store in Moultrie in the 1980s but eventually closed it. The company also closed a store in Thomasville in the late 1990s.

"I'm excited about the possibility of a national retailer locating in our community," Moultrie-Colquitt County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Darrell Moore said. "The company will provide local consumers and other shopping options in town, build our sales tax base and provide new jobs. We'll do everything we can to support their project."

Lowe's largest competitor Home Depot, number one in the home supply industry, reportedly was interested in securing an option on Lasseter and other property in the same vicinity, but company officials would neither confirm nor deny that.

"We typically aren't driven by where our competitors locate. We make our own decisions independent of what they do," Home Depot spokesperson Don Harrison said.

Based in Mooresville, N.C., Lowe's Companies, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company that serves about 10 million customers a week at more than 975 home improvement stores in 45 states, company information said. Sales for fiscal year 2003 were $30.8 billion and earnings were $1.88 billion, maklng the 58-year old company the second-largest home improvement retailer in the world.

The area along the northern section of Veterans Parkway has been a hub of retail and commercial development in the past several years, including the construction of several restaurants, the Hampton Inn and Colony Bank. Soon, Southwest Georgia Bank will build a branch near the Lowe's site. Another restaurant also has inquired about property in that vicinity.

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