Officials say tax program key to economic growth

Published 5:29 pm Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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Economic development professionals attempted to show the public Tuesday night at the Mike Daniel Recreational Center in LaGrange why specific incentives are needed to entice large companies to relocate to the area.

One of the critical incentives economic developers use in Troup County is called PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes. Such incentives were used to land Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia in West Point and several of its accompanying suppliers.

The program works when the manufacturer and the economic development arm of the city or county, agree on a payment, usually made annually, instead of paying property taxes.

According to Scott Malone, president of the LaGrange Economic Development Authority, the company pays a smaller percentage of what the taxes would be to bring them to the area.

The agreement lasts for a certain period, and the payment increases each year.

By the end of the agreement, the company is paying 100 percent of its assessed value.

Malone said in Kia’s instance, there was concern about the county losing out on the $40,000 it was generating off the land. However, he said in the past 10 years, the county has generated $34 million from the property.

“So, it’s not what you gave up,” he said. “Because what did you give up? You gave up getting thousands of dollars in property taxes. What did you get? You got millions of dollars in property taxes.”

Numbers provided at the presentation showed that the county collected $43,557 the first year when Kia first relocated to Troup County. Today, the county is collecting more than $6.5 million each year. Additionally, the county revealed that auto industry-related jobs have increased to 5,312 since Kia and other auto industry companies invested in Troup County.

Malone said one of the biggest advances Troup County has is the ability to work together and have a clear vision of what kind of projects it wants to attract.

“We like advanced manufacturing, where you get a lot of technology, enormous amount of capital investment and a good number of jobs,” he said. “When you have everybody in a room together that understands that, you can make a difference.”

Malone said the PILOT program is the single-greatest asset economic development professionals can use to attract companies. He said some of the initial payments are starting to come off the books and the county is starting to see good financial figures.

He said in the past 24 months, the county has closed on $1.03 billion in bond for projects in LaGrange and Troup County. He said $765 million of that is new money.

“That’s new money, new investment in our community and new jobs in our community,” Malone said. “If you don’t have that success, you’re not thriving as a community. You are going backward.”

Malone said that money generated leads to what most residents want — more amenities.

“Well, the first thing you have to have is jobs,” he said. “And, we’re real fortunate that we have jobs.”

He said housing and utilities are also essential, but residents also want retail businesses and restaurants.

“I can tell you that if for some reason, we decided as a community we wouldn’t want to do the PILOT programs, we would get any more products,” Malone said.

Meghan Duke, executive director for the West Point Development Authority, said economic development is at heart of every community.

“Because a stronger economy doesn’t just mean more jobs — it means more opportunities for choices, more resiliency for everyone,” she said. “So, developing our economy really means developing our community, and a dynamic, thriving community doesn’t happen by chance.”