A new report that singles out Georgia for “poaching” jobs from other states and “wasting” hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money on incentives met tepid local and state reaction from the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.
Gov. Nathan Deal has said his top goal is to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the country to do business. However, Good Jobs First, an advocacy group, said Georgia has all the growth it needs, but it needs to grow fairly.
“We hear every few years that incentives shouldn’t be part of a business relocation decision,” said Tim Evans, vice president for economic development for the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce. “That’s not based on what’s going on in the business world.”
ZF Wind Power is a prime example that states are not just moving existing jobs around, Evans said.
ZF Wind, a $98 million plant that opened in Hall County in 2011, received a state grant and state workforce training.
The Investment Assistance Committee of the Gainesville-Hall County Development Authority & Gainesville-Hall County Economic Development Council gave it a percentage of property tax relief, Evans said.
The newly formed business unit of ZF Group, based in Germany, agreed to invest about $100 million and create 250 jobs after it ramped up production. The plant, which employs about 160 workers, makes wind turbine gearboxes.
“ZF Wind is a totally new product, new facility and new industry,” Evans said.
Evans declined to give the percentage of discount the local public-private partnership awarded the company.
Incentives shouldn’t be the first consideration, but they can help, he said.
“Incentives don’t make a bad business decision a good one,” Evans said. “But they can influence a good decision.”
Deal has announced several new businesses deciding to move or expand in the state, some in or near the Atlanta area, promising large economic investments and thousands of jobs. The state and local governments have promised more than $100 million in incentives to these companies.
From a state perspective, Georgians need to know the incentives are working, said Wesley Tharpe, a tax and economic policy analyst with the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute. The study is national and doesn’t look at the issue at a state level, Tharpe said. Other states are using incentives to attract economic development from their neighbors. Georgia should do an independent review of programs such as OneGeorgia and the Regional Economic Business Assistance program, he said.
“Lawmakers don’t have a clear view on whether these programs are the most effective use of taxpayer money,” Tharpe said.
Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, said the economic research organization used profiles of states such as Georgia to look at the issue from the state’s view. He said states should stop monetizing “interstate job fraud,” and expand existing businesses and create a sustainable tax base.
“There’s no such thing as free growth,” he said.