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Letter: Industry deal might not be as good as thought

With all the fanfare about the four-county industrial park landing a new industry, no one thought our negotiators would be dealing without a full deck. The good news turned bad last week after the Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed from their findings due to a response from their open records request that the $100 million giveaway to lure the industry here has now turned into a $200 million giveaway.

Shocking to say the least because we are now sitting here waiting for what will happen not only next week but in the future. No deal is a good deal unless it benefits both parties. That certainly is not what we have here. Walton and Newton counties seem, at this point, to be responsible for putting up $60 million each in money that we don't have.

After reviewing the more recent records it becomes blatantly obvious they also reveal many misconceptions in costs of items listed. Some of the cost suppositions cannot be met even within this budget. Would anyone be surprised at this point if the amount exceeds $300 million? Would we have been better off just giving $300 million to all the needy, jobless people in the area?

"Long term interests" is a phrase we've heard often during the last two weeks, but history will show we have been lured down this path before. When we agree to give tax breaks based upon future employment levels, there should also be recourse for those not meeting their expectations. For example, "We will defer certain tax for an industry based upon their promises, but, in the event these promises are not fulfilled, the violator is then responsible for paying those taxes." I say again, when you look at the "deal" we sent boys to do a man's job whether it was at the state level, the county level or the multi-county Industrial Authority level.

Costs for infrastructure and other improvements should be set as well. For example, "We will pay up to X dollars for specific improvements. In the event the industry wishes a different plan from that first agreed to, fine, they can pay the difference."

It has been stated the multi-county authority is suffering from ego stress after having no successes for over 10 years and millions of local tax dollars to pay interest on their loans without having paid anything on the initial principal amounts. So they gave away the farm just so they could save face. However, they have saved nothing. This negotiation is a cruel joke on the taxpayers. A known $200 million and a mysterious and dubious future for even more money to make it work.

I don't see the deal materializing. Our local "brain trust" has made promises we cannot fulfill. I will just start with water and sewerage. It ain't gonna happen. We even have the self-proclaimed water guru on staff as our county attorney as well as the attorney for the multi-county Industrial Authority and as I've tried to express many times, "You cannot manufacture water in a court brief!"

Nothing would please me more than to see new opportunities for our citizens, but we have created a monster that will drain us financially if we even have a chance to keep this one from unraveling. It even stresses the structure of the multi-county Industrial Authority. It may well unravel. How even will Jasper County and Morgan County come up with their portions of the expense? Are we not all operating on a crisis budget already with revenues and collections way off the mark and expenses continuing to rise just to provide basic services?

Once again, the wisdom of one of my billionaire friends comes to mind, "Sam, sometimes the best deals you will ever make are the deals you don't make." In addition, he further advised status quo. "If you can come out of this in about the same position you were at going in, you will be light years ahead of the game. There will be a lot of 'lucrative' deals out there, but you will be better served just to sit on your money and let them go on by."

-- Samuel M. Hay III

Covington

Comments

HonestAbe 2 years, 5 months ago

Very well said. This deal,if it goes through will have to be watched very close for corruption. A deal this size most always ends up on the news about someone putting money in their pocket. I agree that the county attorney can't handle a deal this size. Maybe he is planning on building even more resorvoirs, in turn taking more Newton County wetlands, We will be paying high costs for this for a long, long, time.

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jjhayden3rd 2 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Hay states the conservative perspective very well: "Trust but verify" as a famous former actor once read. However some of the preliminary statistics point toward optimism. The average (top-to-bottom) salary is expected to be $60K/year for the 1500 employees ($90 million/year total). The taxes and fees due Newton County are anticipated to be an amount about one half of this year’s budget without considering the impact of the salaries on the region. I agree that constant vigilance is essential; however it may just as likely be a glass half full rather than one half empty. If this leads to a collection of similar and associated industries setting up business in Newton County, it would be certainly tip the scales in favor of a positive rather than a negative for the county and region. J.J. Hayden III Covington

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HonestAbe 2 years, 5 months ago

I will ask this question. The article states that they will not be paying any tax for 5 years and will not be paying full tax for 15 years. I assume we will be giving them taxpayer money and resourses well before then. Newton county is a poor county with many homeowners barely meeting their tax obligations now. How is this going to be done without raising property tax and water bills in at least the short term. Where is the money and water going to come from? The article shows that 4 counties will be paying as much or more than the entire State of Ga. Why could it not have been done with the state of Georgia footing most of the bill until the plant is up and running , hiring people and adding to the tax digest? Why have the full details not being explained to the taxpayers by local officials? Why do the numbers keep going up everytime an article or news report come out? What is the real price tag for Newton County? This paper and reporters are good about geeting all the answers but why would the county just come to the paper and volunteer all of this up front? I would think that a venture this size would want the buyin from the general public even conservatives such as myself and Mr Hay. Conservatives want jobs for the county as well, but we want to make sure we know what we are getting into as property owners, because after all we (property owners ) are the ones who will have to pay the bills for this. We also understand that property tax goes up fast, but hardly ever comes down regardless of how much more the tax digest goes up. Liberals will just find more ways to spend it. I'm proud to have a REAL CONSERVATION like Mr Hay writing this letter and sticking up for conservative principles. The Republican party use to but has now moved to far to the left.

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John 2 years, 5 months ago

It may be hard for a NCDP officer to say, but that former famous actor that was President Ronald Reagan. He did adopt and made famous the phase "trust but verify" when he was President (not as an actor) and used it primarily when referring to or discussing US-Soviet relations. What Mr. Hay is saying clearly until Baxter International gets up & running at full steam (which more than likely be at a level lower than initially projected) & the benefits of tax subsidies, etc runs out - Newton County & the other contributing counties (i.e. the tax paying portion - citizens & establish businesses) will be on the hook for the cost of "infrastructure" development, etc. Kinda' like the Obama Healthcare program.

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HonestAbe 2 years, 5 months ago

My father use to always tell us- if something comes along that looks to good to be true- it probably is. Large Corporations such as this usually have very smart and trained ececutives to work deals like this. If they aren't good they don't stay around. Corporations main purpose is to please their stockholders. They are so good they could probably take the shirt off your back, but make you feel good short term. I remember the days Ted Turner use to spend millions on players trying to make the Braves winners but they kept losing. Finally he hired some experts to manage the team and they won 15 division titles in a row. I don't think we had that kind of experts on our side in this deal.

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Silverbullet 2 years, 5 months ago

One of the commissioners attending the 'secret' meeting on Thursday night with the four counties and the Authority stated, "The people have a right to know what is going on. Even the commissioners have a right to know what is going on. They don't! Having been left completely out of the loop by the Multi County Authority, they got their information from the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Monday last week before the local press was given the "Big Story" by the Authority. Of the questions asked about the Baxter deal by one or more of the commissioners, no answers were forthcoming. Answers like, "Errr, we dont know, we dont have those figures together yet" etc. So many unknowns after all this fanfare? "Well they (Baxter) haven't bought the land yet" !!! Deals of this magnitude are made by professional deal makers with years of experience. They are NOT bornl. They are trained, experienced, and proven. What just exactly do we have going for us on this deal? Trained, experienced, proven? We the people who are going to be responsible for picking up the tab certainly don't think so. Going forward with no concrete plan is a road to nowhere. The Authority nor the State has a clue. No pro-forma, no documented business plan,nothing but a lot of CO2. Im not just worried, I am literally scared to death of what this legacy of ever increasing taxes may become, not only for me but for my children and grandchildren. You can elephant hunt after you are sure you have regular meals coming in. The Authority would have been much better served with a half dozen small industries to get their feet on the ground than going out elephant hunting. Maybe the reason they have had so much trouble attracting industry is because that is all they have been doing. Elephant hunting. There aren't very many elephants out there and a whole lot of competition for those that are.

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Bemused 2 years, 5 months ago

Any time you have to give away the farm to get a little in return, it usually isn't worth it.

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Silverbullet 2 years, 5 months ago

Would the newspaper please do a story oh EXACTLY WHO negotiated this deal on 'behalf' of the taxpaying citizens of the four counties. There has to be someone at the helm. Who was it? Thank you. PS: Also get their resume' or credentials. That is going to be interesting!

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HonestAbe 2 years, 5 months ago

Baxter announced a profit of $588 million the past quarter. Why would they need over a $100 million from the already stressed taxpayers of Newton,Jasper,Walton and Morgan County to build a plant here?

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HonestAbe 2 years, 5 months ago

I wonder if Mr Verner, Mr Craig, Mr Dobbs will voluntary tell us what pay (if any) they are getting for being on the Joint Development authority and how much is coming from taxpayer dollars?We know from Walton County government openness that they have stated not to expect any immediate return to the taxpayer coffers from this venture. Since they have the same vested interest as Newton County i suppose Newton County taxpayers has already payed 2.5 million interest on the bonds to buy this land as they did. Will they be open and tell us or will they force us to file an O RR as others in our Local government has?

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Silverbullet 2 years, 4 months ago

Seems like the insiders who are talking about the Baxter deal are saying, "It still isn't even a done deal yet!" Would be nice if the newspaper asked some simple questions about this since they were one of several news sources who took the hook, line, and sinker to announce in essence, "We have secured the deal with Baxter." I personally would ask the President of the Four County Development Authority, in writing, several questions of this nature and require a response back in writing. Then publish the questions and the responses in the newspaper.

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