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Joint Development Authority looks to future

Posted by Daily Citizen News: Saturday, January 23, 2016 10:00 pm

Written By Charles Oliver  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

As of the first of January, the Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority (JDA) had 59 projects it was working on, representing a total of $2 billion in investment and 5,381 direct jobs, according to Carl Campbell, the JDA’s executive director.

“But we aren’t the only ones competing for those projects,” he said. “And we aren’t the only ones trying to get good, well-paying jobs. The whole state is going after those jobs.”

The JDA is tasked with bringing new jobs and new investment to Dalton and Whitfield County.

Ten years after its founding, the JDA can point to some successes. It played a role in bringing the manufacturing facilities of Engineered Floors, IVC U.S. and other floorcovering companies to Dalton, creating hundreds of jobs.

But Campbell said the competitive landscape is tough.

“Getting those wins has been harder than we would like it to be,” he said. “We came very close on a very large automotive project — 500 jobs and over $180 million in investment — that ultimately decided to go to Chattanooga. Chattanooga provided more incentives and Volkswagen wanted them up there.”

Dalton Mayor Dennis Mock says he’s impressed by the work the JDA has been doing.

“I didn’t realize just how competitive economic development is until I took office,” he said. “I now have a better appreciation for what they do.”

Campbell said that often local communities don’t even get a chance to make a case before companies that are looking to expand or relocate.

“When a company has a project, they give the project manager a list of things they need. Maybe they need to be within two or three miles of an interstate. Maybe they need rail access. Maybe they need to be close to an airport. They put together a list, and that list usually includes things that affect the costs of doing business. Freeport is one of those things.,” he said. “They then go to the communities in that list to negotiate the best deal. If we don’t check off even one of their boxes, we don’t make that list.”

Freeport allows a local government to exempt some or all of the value of many types of business inventory from property taxes.

Working with the Dalton City Council and the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, the JDA has taken steps to let it check off some of the most common boxes.

It early on developed a formula for offering property tax abatements for new investment based on the size of the investment, the number of jobs it would create and how well those jobs would pay. Both the city and the county adopted a freeport tax exemption for inventory. The city currently exempts 20 percent of the value of inventory and the county 100 percent.

Campbell said the county’s development of the Carbondale Business Park has helped, and around half of all prospective businesses visiting the county look at the park now.

Located in the southern part of Whitfield County just east of I-75, the Carbondale Business Park opened in 2010 and attracted its only tenant so far, adhesive-maker XL Brands, a year later. Whitfield County has spent $10.3 million so far developing the 284-acre site.

For the past few years, the JDA has been able to count on money raised four years ago by the Grow Greater Dalton initiative, an economic development drive backed by the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. In 2014 and 2015, that money covered all of the JDA’s more than $400,000 budget. But in 2016, that money accounts for just $84,850 of its budget, with the city of Dalton and Whitfield County kicking in $157,500 each.

“This is our final year (of Grow Greater Dalton funding),” said Campbell. “There are a few pledges that are rolling into 2017. In 2017, we should be OK. And in 2018, we hope to have PILOT payments that will cover most or all of that Grow Greater Dalton piece.”

PILOT payments, also known as payments in lieu of taxes, are paid by companies that qualify for the JDA’s tax incentive program.

“We offer a reduction in taxes to companies that meet certain standards. To do that we have to take title to those assets while the tax reductions are in place, so it is no longer taxable. The company still makes payments on the portion that is taxable. It’s just technically payments in lieu of taxes, not tax payments,” said Campbell.

The JDA currently directs all of those payments to local governments, primarily the county since that is where most projects have gone. But officials would like to keep PILOT payments from future projects to fund the JDA.

In 2016 the county has budgeted $163,134 in PILOT payments from the JDA, in addition to a $1.7 million PILOT payment from Engineered Floors that will be used specifically to pay debt service on a county bond that was issued in 2013 to pay for various county infrastructure, according to county Finance Director Alicia Vaughn.

Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb says commissioners value the work done by the JDA and would like to see it become self-sustaining. But he says they also believe the county needs to have some compensation for the money it has spent on various development projects.

“I know they would like to keep the PILOT payments. All I can say at this time is that is something we will have to talk about,” he said.

The article can be found online at: http://www.daltondailycitizen.com/news/joint-development-authority-looks-to-future/article_f4a95a1c-c246-11e5-8e18-7f872de2a649.html

Dalton-Whitfield County Joint Development Authority – 100 S. Hamilton St – Dalton, Georgia 30720
phone 706-278-7373 – fax 706-226-8739 – email EDinfo@daltonchamber.org
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