The Development Authority of Cherokee County met Monday to discuss Cherokee 75 and next year’s plans for economic development.
Cherokee 75 includes 100 acres of light-industrial zoned property with a small retail section. The development is two miles east of Interstate 75 on Ga. 92. It is located inside a state-designated Opportunity Zone, so the state offers tax incentives for jobs created at the site.
Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, said the Opportunity Zone credits are advantageous for business owners. Businesses are eligible for tax credits after creating two or more jobs. For other state tax credits, employers must create 25 jobs before being eligible for credits.
“It’s much more flexible. Plus, the credit in the rest of the county is $1,250 per job created. Within an Opportunity Zone, its $3,500,” she said.
The property has earned Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development certification, making it the first property in Cherokee County to do so.
The certification puts Cherokee 75 on a list of sites that are suited for projects with accelerated timelines.
“It’s an assurance that all the due diligence has been done on this site. It’s not easy. There’s so much data that has to be pulled together and assembled in just the right way to present an application. Heath (Tippens, COED project manager) did a great job with it,” Martin said.
The project has been broken into two phases, and the first phase is scheduled to be finished in early 2013. Phase 1 includes infrastructure improvements, mostly related to water and sewer, as well as some paving, curbing and gravelling.
The Development Authority of Cherokee County broke ground on the project in August.
The budget for the upgrades is $754,000, coming from the DACC’s reserve funds.
The county purchased 42 of the 100 acres in the business park in 2010 for $1.9 million, adding to land already owned by the DACC.
Martin said she is hoping the investment pays off as the economy improves.
“In 2009 and 2010, we tried to use that time to position ourselves and do a lot of planning, so when the numbers turned around, we would be poised for quality growth,” she said. “Our numbers are drastically up in 2012 as far as prospect activity and our overall numbers.”
DACC chairman Marshall Day said he is optimistic about the development.
“We’ve still got all the positives that Cherokee County offers to businesses that want to move in here or expand here, and now we’ve got this park to go with it,” he said.
Day cited the business park’s location and topography as advantages of Cherokee 75.
“We’ve had a lot of activity the last several months from companies looking to expand or relocate. We’re hoping they’ll find that location attractive,” he said.
For other activity in 2013, Martin said COED will continue to look into a small business incubator. She said office staff have researched and visited small business incubators, but the development office hasn’t found a suitable location for one in Cherokee County.
At Monday’s meeting, DACC members discussed establishing an executive council to have input from and conversation with existing industry leaders in Cherokee County.
The 2013 business plan states that this council could also meet with school system leadership to discuss preparing students for the workplace.
Martin added that COED would like to research ways to better utilize Reinhardt University.