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Oakwood pursuing opportunity zone

POSTED: September 9, 2013 9:14 p.m.

The Oakwood City Council voted Monday night to adopt an urban redevelopment plan and apply to the state for the designation of certain blighted areas as an opportunity zone.

“I strongly recommend we adopt this due to our footprint for redevelopment,” Mayor Lamar Scroggs told the council before the vote. “Redevelopment brings jobs and industry to the city of Oakwood.”

City officials had to produce a redevelopment plan before they could apply to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for the opportunity zone designation, which would allow for a $3,500 tax credit for each new job created to companies that locate in the zone.

Oakwood’s proposed opportunity zone features 104 parcels on 416 acres across the city, including around Mundy Mill near Interstate 985 and McEver Road at Flat Creek Road.

The 10-year job tax credits are first applied against any income tax liability on the Georgia corporate income tax return, with any excess job tax credit eligible for claiming against Georgia payroll withholding taxes, according to the DCA.

The redevelopment plan “is set up to prove to DCA that you guys aren’t just grabbing at goodies,” said Jonathan F. Gelber, senior consultant with Atlanta-based Bleakly Advisory Group, in a presentation to the council.

“This is to prove that you’ve done your homework, that you’ve done your comprehensive planning, that you’ve got everything in place you need to (have).”

“We think it’s a good move,” City Manager Stan Brown said in recommending approval of the plan and application. “I think it’s important that we have these incentives on the table. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Tim Evans, vice president of economic development for the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, urged the council to give its approval.

“There are hundreds of communities around the state that currently have (opportunity zones),” he said.

Also, neighboring North Carolina and South Carolina have payroll withholding benefits that apply to new jobs, Evans said.

“This opportunity zone is our only way to get (any) kind of benefit for any part of our community,” he said. “The state has created this program — it’s the only tool that communities like ours (can use).”

Evans ticked off a list of counties that have opportunity zones, including Cherokee, Fulton and Gwinnett.

“A lot of counties we wouldn’t consider poorest in the state have put this into place and we’re coming up in competitive situations with those communities,” Evans said.

He said a change in DCA leadership is slowing the review of applications, “but we can get this one in line so that when the process picks back up again and this can be approved, it can be really key for us, not only to be competitive within the state but with our neighboring states as well.”


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