On the coattails of an e-commerce company announcing its move to Forsyth County with an investment four times the average is looking into some new tools for economic development.
At a special called meeting on Tuesday, Forsyth County commissioners effectively created a new steering committee to give recommendations within 30-60 days on the county’s tax abatement and economic incentive policy. There was no formal vote.
“This is as much, maybe more so, about a process as it is a policy,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce.
County Attorney Ken Jarrard said Forsyth’s current policy was adopted in 2007 and is similar to those done in other places.
“It allows them to enjoy some ad valorem tax abatement over a certain defined number of years,” Jarrard said. “I think this is done when we were otherwise negotiating a deal. I think it was felt necessary to put this in a policy format.”
McCoy said request for tax abatements are rare in Forsyth County because it is typically easier and cheaper for a company not to go through the process, which involves legal and bond fees.
“That is really the first one to be executed that we know of in over five years,” he said about an e-commerce company, Sports Warehouse, that recently announced its move to Forsyth with $14 million in investment and more than 300 new jobs.
Robert Long, the Chamber’s vice president of economic development, said a company needs to invest $8 million for an abatement to make sense. The average last year was $5 million.
Just before the announcement, the county approved an incentives package for the distribution center.
Tammy Caudell, with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, said the local work force is a selling point for companies.
“Workforce development, that’s a big one,” she said. “Here in Forsyth County, you guys have a phenomenal education system, the best in the state, and companies look at that. They look at that workforce.”
In a presentation by members of the Chamber, data was also given on how Forsyth compared to nearby counties and cities for abatements.
“This kind of goes back to the tools in the toolbox, and our tools in our tool box is pretty limited,” Long said.
One difference is Forsyth is the only metro Atlanta country that does not allow an abatement of school taxes to draw businesses. Forsyth was also the only county to have a process to expedite developments.