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County to hold public hearing on economic development ordinance
Forsyth County

A proposed ordinance could help bring more jobs to Forsyth County.

At a recent work session, Forsyth County Commissioners voted 4-0, with District 1 Commissioner Pete Amos absent, to go ahead with a public hearing for a proposed economic development ordinance. 

Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce CEO and President James McCoy said the new plan would be more focused than the county’s existing economic plan, which is more than 10 years old.

“What this does is it refocuses us around the target industries. It enunciates for each target which industry would be that many jobs, this much capital investment to reach the threshold,” McCoy said.

McCoy said once the chamber was aware of a potential project, they would go to the county manager and it should be clear based on the policy what the county is looking for. 

“I think the real discussion should probably be around covering all the target industries we really want and are these the thresholds that we want,” he said. “Because when we bring a project to the county manager, I cannot foresee too many circumstances that would come up … that would not be a simple ‘yes it meets the criteria,’ or it doesn’t.”

Tools the county may be able to use to attract businesses include reduction of development impact fees, reduction of development fees, acceleration of the review process and public hearing dates, tax abatement inducements and to “not consider inclusion of the school millage rate unless it is an extraordinary project.”

Commission Chairman Todd Levent said the plan would only come into play for a significant project. 

“For me, it has to be a destination. It has to be higher paying jobs,” Levent said.  “It can’t be a grocery store in the middle of the county that is just taking jobs and customers from other grocery stores. That doesn’t make any sense.”

County Attorney Ken Jarrard said the plan will be updated each year. 

McCoy said the plan would improve on an already successful year for economic development in 2017. 

“This past year we had the best year we have ever had as a community for economic development announcements,” McCoy said. “There were 27 announcements [and] 1,400 new jobs to the community, with $160 million of new capital investments.”