Hall County Board of Commissioners work session
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Courthouse Annex, 116 Spring St. SE, Gainesville
A city of Gainesville plan aimed to improve economic viability in distressed areas goes before the Hall County Board of Commissioners this week, as it considers a partnership with the city.
Gainesville officials are applying for state approval on an urban redevelopment plan that could bring tax credits for new jobs in three areas of the city and Hall County that would be considered “opportunity zones.” The zones are expected to entice businesses.
“It’s a tax break for job creation,” said Ken Bleakly, a consultant who helped develop the city’s plans.
The city extended an offer to the Hall County commission to join in that application because the proposed zones overlap outside of city limits. Commissioners have signaled an interest, but are also looking at some revisions.
“I think this is something we can say is a clear economic booster,” said Commissioner Ashley Bell during an April work session discussion.
As part of Georgia’s tax code, relocating or expanding businesses within designated opportunity zones are eligible for a tax credit of up to $3,500 for every new job they create.
But for a local government to designate an opportunity zone, it must first meet strict state requirements and be approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
The zones have to be in or adjacent to census block groups with 15 percent poverty and with evidence of underdevelopment, blight or general distress.
Gainesville officials drafted a plan with its proposed opportunity zones earlier this year, and City Council approved it in March.
The first zone is near Browns Bridge Road and Atlanta Highway, where the city hopes to revive aging commercial properties. The second is an area along Ga. 365 and White Sulphur Road, where planners hope to bring industrial development into vacant lots. Lastly, the city has pinpointed areas around Candler Road, with an eye toward enticing business parks and aiding industrial development.
Although the city developed the plan, Gainesville is hoping to partner with the county in implementing it, said City Manager Kip Padgett, since many of the proposed zones overlap outside city limits into the county’s jurisdiction.
“We have an opportunity to take advantage of the foundation they built,” said County Administrator Randy Knighton last month.
A joint application could also strengthen the chances of state approval, said Jessica Robinson, Hall County’s grants manager.
When first given a look at the plan in April, Commissioners Billy Powell and Bell asked for an expansion of opportunity zones farther into Hall County.
Since then, city and county officials have been working to find the best way to marry commission input into the plan.
Any changes would have to be approved by City Council and could delay the process.