Originally created 11/17/00

Cities want to establish state agency



ATLANTA - City officials throughout Georgia are enthusiastic about the possibility of landing a piece of state government in their back yard and are willing to offer incentives to make it happen, members of a state task force were told Thursday.

"They're very interested in a state agency of whatever size locating in their area," Susan Park, a policy analyst for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, told the Joint Blue Ribbon Commission on State Government Decentralization. "They're considered very good jobs."

DCA regional representatives contacted local officials as part of a survey of cities throughout the state to determine the cost of doing business in various locations. The sample included the largest city in each of the department's 12 service-delivery regions and at least one midsize and one small city in each region.

The commission, which includes state lawmakers and local business and political leaders, began meeting last month to develop criteria to determine which state agencies would be good candidates to move out of Atlanta and which cities would be the best hosts for those operations. A preliminary report to the General Assembly is due in January.

Supporters see decentralizing state government as a way to save tax dollars by finding less expensive digs for agencies that don't need to be in the capital. The effort also is being billed as an economic development tool for parts of the state that haven't shared in Georgia's boom.

The researchers found that business costs vary widely from city to city, with the smaller communities tending to offer less expensive office space than the larger cities. But today's office-space rates in even the most expensive cities outside of the Atlanta area cost less than the rates listed for the metro area in a study that was done in the early 1990s.

On the other hand, smaller cities also have smaller labor pools from which to draw workers and tend to lack the sophisticated telecommunications systems found in larger cities.

"Some real small cities don't have the infrastructure to do this," said Rep. Bob Hanner , D-Parrott, the commission's chairman.

Finding ways to bring state-of-the-art telecommunications to small communities is the major focus of the new Dublin-based Georgia Technology Authority, one of the few state agencies now headquartered outside metro Atlanta.

The survey also turned up a number of cities, particularly small and midsize communities, willing to provide incentives to lure state agencies. The possibilities includes special rates on buildings or utilities or "build-to-suit" projects.

Area prices

Georgia's smaller communities tend to offer less expensive office space than larger cities, according to a sample of cities compiled for a task force looking into the potential of moving some state offices out of Atlanta. A similar committee formed in the early 1990s found that office space inside the metro area was running from $15 to $22 per square foot at that time.

City.....Avg. cost of Class A office space (per sq. ft.)

Athens........$12-$18

Augusta......$14.50-$17.50

Clarkesville.....$8-$12

Commerce....$0.25-$1.25

Darien.....$2-$5

Douglas.....$10

Hinesville...$10-$12

Jesup.......$8.50

Louisville...$10

Savannah......$16.50-$17.25

Statesboro......$5-$7

Toccoa.........$6-$10

Valdosta.......$15-$19

Waynesboro......$10-$11

Source: Georgia Department of Community Affairs

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