SKF USA, a major South Hall employer, is now one step closer to becoming part of Flowery Branch, five years after connecting to the city’s sewer system.
City Council gave an initial OK Thursday night to the company’s request for annexation totaling 63.46 acres, as well as rezoning from Hall County heavy industrial to the city’s heavy manufacturing and industrial district.
A final vote is set for Dec. 7, but that is likely just a formality as officials have rallied around the move.
“I’m really excited about this,” Councilman Joe Anglin said. “This is a big day for Flowery Branch.”
The prospect of SKF entering the city is “very exciting,” Mayor Mike Miller has said. “They will become our largest employer and help with our goal of leveling out the unbalance of residential versus commercial/retail.”
The city’s tax base has traditionally been about 80 residential and 20 percent commercial.
“Ideally, the goal would be to have a 70 percent commercial/retail to 30 percent residential, but that is a long-term goal,” Miller said.
Asked by an audience member what effect the annexation would have on the city’s tax revenues, City Manager Bill Andrew said it wouldn’t be a huge impact.
“It’s not something I really want to talk about in the meeting, reminding SKF as to what they’ll be paying us,” he said.
The company at 5385 McEver Road, off Radford Road, was established locally in 1975. The company, with 250 employees, makes antifriction precision ball bearings.
In April 2012, the company and Flowery Branch reached an agreement that required SKF to pursue annexation by late 2017.
“It doesn’t cost the city anything, and we’ve got the opportunity to bring in a winning company,” Anglin said at the time.
Movement toward the agreement began in 2011, when SKF approached the city with concerns about its septic system.
“In talking to state and county officials, and the city of Flowery Branch, the desired outcome was that SKF would connect to the city sewer system,” City Attorney Ron Bennett said in April 2012.
One of the hurdles for SKF was that a sewer connection “wasn’t quite as economically feasible as repairing the septic system,” he said.
“So, the parties got together a made a determination that if annexation can be delayed … to save on city taxes, business license fees and whatnot, there could be a negotiated tap fee rate (and) SKF would be willing to come into the city,” Bennett said.