Last week, at another of a series of intergovernmental meetings, members of the Haralson County Development Authority proposed an agreement that would provide a standard incentive package to offer businesses looking to set up shop in any part of the county.

Representatives from governing bodies including the County Commission, and the cities of Tallapoosa, Bremen, Waco and Buchanan as well as local development authorities began meeting a few months ago to discuss how to promote economic development throughout the county. Eric McDonald, president of the Development Authority, said this agreement would give the Development Authority a stronger position in negotiations with prospective businesses.

“Then, when a prospect comes in, the Authority has utmost confidence that if they were to offer that to an industry, standing in the parking lot, that everybody would be fine with it,” McDonald said.

But it would also allow all entities in the agreement to know what is going on in the county, he added.

“The second part of that is a transparency,” McDonald said. “So if Tallapoosa’s offering an incentive to a company, they send out that incentive … they send it out to all of the taxing entities, (to) a key contact. So, that allows everybody to kind of know what’s going on.”

If a city is offering a package that is different than the standard incentive package, it allows another entity five days to ask for an explanation.

“It keeps that economic development, team sport mentality of moving forward,” he said.

All taxing bodies and the Board of Assessors would be involved in the agreement including the county, the four cities and the two school boards.

The county has seen increased interest from developers in the last few months, and now is the time to move on an agreement, McDonald said.

The agreement was based on an agreement from another area that was about 20 years old, he said. It was first proposed about five years ago. It has never had a champion to really promote it, though, McDonald said.

The agreement wouldn’t necessarily change, but proposed incentive package would have to be updated, he said.

The incentive package and the intergovernmental agreement would be two separated documents to allow the incentive package to be amended easyily as the market changes, McDonald said. The idea would remain the same, to allow the county to move more quickly when approached by a prospective business, he said.

Gary Broadstreet, a member of the Development Authority agreed it was important for the the authority to know what it can offer to prospective businesses and not have to continually go back to each governing authority for approval while trying to negotiate. It saves time and it gives the business representatives confidence that they are talking to the right people.

“I think it’s an elementary tool for us,” Broadstreet said.

Jacob Mullins, another member of the Development Authority agreed.

“You can’t negotiate a deal if you don’t have the authority to make decisions,” Mullins said. “It’s not asking for the moon. It’s saying what would we customarily do? What are the limits?”

But he also said he can understand some hesitancy on the part of the taxing bodies.

“The question is, could one entity, throw the flag and stop something that really doesn’t affect them?” Mullins said.

McDonald said he was introduced to the idea in Polk County and it worked well for them. But he said if one entity were to “play dirty,” the agreement wouldn’t be working and it could end.

The sample tax incentive plan uses qualifiers such as the number of full-time jobs the prospective business would bring to the county, the average wage of those jobs and the investment the company would be making in the couty to determine what type of incentive the business would be eligible to receive. The actual incentives still have to be worked out.

“We may be hungry, but we don’t want to give away the store,” Eidson said.

The local taxpayers could be the ones paying for the infrastructure through taxes and fees to support the businesses until they start contributing to the local coffers, said Philip Eidson, city manager of Tallapoosa.

McDonald said that a tax incentive is not a cash payment that the taxing entities are giving up. For instance, if a company commits to building on an unused, empty piece of property, the community is only getting taxes based the lowest value of that property. Once the company builds something, that property adds something substantial to the tax base.

“If you put a $20 million project at 10%, you’re going to get the last three years of zeros back plus some,” McDonald said. “Then it goes up from there.”

There is a possibility of matching grants to help pay for infrastructure to the property, said another of the representatives at the meeting.

But Eidson said those are getting more difficult to find and many require at least a portion be paid back.

“They’re not there like everybody thinks, like they were 10 years ago,” he said. “But that’s the things you’ve got to do to land that company. We probably spent $4 million when Honda came. It’s well worth it, but it’s not free.”

Haralson Commissioner Ryan Farmer said it’s an investment by the community.

“Without those companies Haralson County and the city of Tallapoosa almost becomes unlivable, I mean when you start looking at what the millage rate would go up to,” he said.

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