Officials OK incentives for industry

COVINGTON -- Officials are vying to recruit an industrial development to Newton County through tax incentives.

During a joint meeting of the Covington City Council, Newton County Board of Commissioners and Industrial Development Authority Monday at the Chamber of Commerce, officials agreed to respond to a request for proposal by an unnamed industry.

The industry would invest $100 million and create up to 120 jobs for the local economy over a five-year period, according to the Chamber's Economic Development Director Shannon Davis. Employee salaries would range from $35,000 to more than $100,000.

Officials agreed to offer a seven-year tax abatement. The industry would pay no taxes for the first two years, and then collections would increase incrementally by 20 percent for the next five years.

Chamber President Hunter Hall said the industry's only direct competitor at this time is located in Canada.

"It's to our advantage to help them succeed and break into a new marketplace in the United States," Hall said.

The abatement is being offered through a bond-lease transaction. The IDA will issue bonds to acquire the property and lease it to the private company. The lease payments amortize the bonds and the company will own the facility at the end of the lease.

Newton County is facing competition from communities in Arizona and California.

City Council members present -- Keith Dalton, Janet Goodman, Ocie Franklin and Hawnethia Williams -- voted in favor of the IDA proceeding with a response to the RFP.

Morgan said the BOC did not have to formally vote, as she is authorized as a member of the IDA to make the decision, but added she got a consensus from three board members to make sure the board was in favor. Commissioners Tim Fleming and Nancy Schulz were present at Monday's meeting. Morgan said she also received consent from Commissioner Mort Ewing.

Officials requested the media keep details of the discussion at the meeting confidential, due to concerns regarding the competitive nature of the project.

However, the gathering meets the definition of a public meeting under the Georgia Open Meetings Act and all discussion is a matter of public record.