Originally created 08/06/02

Officials oppose membership

The role played by state-provided economic incentives in industrial recruitment has become a hot issue in recent weeks as Richmond County leaders debate the merits of membership in the CSRA Unified Development Authority.

Joining in the unified authority - a group of 11 counties that have banned together to take advantage of state incentives available to regional authority members - would allow Richmond County to offer an extra $500 tax credit for each new job a company creates in the area.

It's an incentive that economic developers say will help attract new industries. The county currently offers $2,500-per-job credits throughout most of the county, with some less-developed areas qualifying to offer $3,500 credits. Membership in the unified authority would up those credits to $3,000 and $4,000, respectively.

Richmond County Development Authority attorney Jerry Dye has told members of the Augusta Commission that the county does not need the $500-per-job tax credit, however. Mr. Dye said recruiting industry to the underdeveloped areas - designated by the state Department of Community Affairs as "less-developed census tracts" - should be the focus of local economic developers.

The property best suited for industrial development, located chiefly in south Augusta, doesn't qualify for the $3,500 credit, though. Richmond County's less-developed census tracts include a huge stretch of Fort Gordon, most of downtown Augusta and a portion of the city's western riverfront.

"Our best chances for economic development are at Augusta Corporate Park off Mike Padgett Highway and Forward Augusta Park on Tobacco Road," said Bryan Quinsey, the executive director of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and an economic developer for Richmond County. "These places have the available land, work force and existing infrastructure."

Other restrictions on less-developed census tracts can make it difficult for companies to qualify for the $3,500 credit. Among those is the requirement that at least 30 percent of the new jobs go to residents of the less-developed area, according to community affairs officials.

The county development authority will make a recommendation on whether to join the unified authority by the time the commission meets in September.

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or john.banks@augustachronicle.com.


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