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Help state ‘move forward’
Chamber chief talks to panel about jobs bill
James McCoy, president of the Cumming-Forsyth County chamber, addresses the Tax Incentives Subcommittee on Wednesday about jobs and economic growth. - photo by Jennifer Sami
ATLANTA — The head of the local chamber of commerce was among those appearing Wednesday before a panel of state legislators weighing measures to encourage jobs and economic growth in Georgia.

James McCoy, president of the Cumming-Forsyth County chamber, addressed the Tax Incentives Subcommittee before it approved to full committee the Jobs, Opportunity and Business Success Act of 2010.

Known as the JOBS Act, the legislation, authored by District 12 state Rep. Tom Graves, would offer incentives to companies hiring unemployed workers, as well as entrepreneurs starting or investing in a new business.

“I think you’ll find this tells a great story,” said Graves, a Republican from Ranger who also serves on the subcommittee. “We’re going to send a strong message that Georgia is going to be a beacon of economic recovery for the rest of the nation.”

Small businesses are the backbone of Forsyth County, McCoy told the handful of subcommittee members.

“We have about 5,300 business entities in Forsyth County,” he said. “All but 100 of them employ 20 or fewer people total, so we are very familiar with the needs of small businesses and particularly what they’re going through.

“I can tell you that the No. 1 concern that we are hearing, and have been hearing for the last few months, is access to capital.”

The hunt for capital carried through most of the speakers, which included Dalton Mayor David Pennington, who focused on manufacturing jobs.

“I know it would disappoint people if the mayor of Dalton did not talk about manufacturing,” he said.

Dalton, off Interstate 75 in northwest Georgia, is heavily dependent on manufacturing, particularly the carpet industry.

“There’s nothing wrong with this bill,” Pennington said. “It is a little bit nibbling around the edges, with the crisis that we have going on in this country and state.

“We need to start digging our way out ... and I truly believe we’re not going to do that unless we do it with manufacturing jobs.”

To help start and grow small businesses, which is a focus of the bill, there is an income tax credit for up to 50 percent of an investment made in a small or start-up business with 20 or fewer employees.

Known as the Angel Investor tax credit, the measure would be offered to anyone who invests in a new or small company for at least two years.

McCoy, who is also the local chamber’s chief executive officer, called it the most exciting part of the bill.

“We are in the process of doing something that chambers of commerce are not typically used to doing, and that is working actively with angel investors, and we hope in the not-so-distant future, venture capitalists to help folks that actually thought 2009 was one of their best years ever,” McCoy said.

“They are out there and they cannot grow without the capital to move forward.”

For prosperity, McCoy said the angel investor credit has to happen first.

The loans, he said, aren’t going to be for sums in the millions. They likely will be closer to $150,000, “so the person can move out of their basement with a really great idea and move into a ... facility, and really get up and going.

“I can tell you we have dozens of those companies right now in just Forsyth County for folks who are operating ... out of their basement and are looking for those angel investors,” McCoy said. “That credit can really help the state, I think, move forward.”

The bill goes next to the full committee, which will determine whether it makes it to the House floor and a possible vote.