The Sandy Springs City Council on July 12 approved incentives to lure a business into the city that claims it will create 289 jobs, but some council members said they were wary about what the city’s long-term economic development policy would be.
“We need to give this a tremendous amount of thought,” Mayor Eva Galambos said.
The unspecified project planned for the Powers Ferry area, code-named “Project Gamma” by City Manager John McDonough, will receive around $190,000 in incentives from the city. City officials did not name the company.
The pay-off for the city will be 289 new jobs with an additional 50 expected in the next five years, McDonough said. McDonough said the company will make an $8 million capital investment in Sandy Springs and provide average wages of $60,000 per employee. He described the company as “international” and said it had $4 billion in sales last year.
He said the city will waive two-years’ worth of business taxes, up to $75,000 each year, a $35,000 one-time impact fee and a $3,887 permit fee.
McDonough said the council wants the city staff to develop a detailed, long-term policy for economic incentives.
City staff members put a potential policy in front of the council at the July 12 meeting. The policy included expediting a company’s permitting process, waiving permit and impact fees, and waiving the business occupational tax up to $75,000 annually. The city could waive business license taxes for up to three years, provided the company provides $5 million in capital investment and creates more than 100 jobs.
Galambos cautioned that the city should not “play favorites” with economic development policies. City Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny echoed that concern.
Bob Simmons, Chief Development Officer for the Development Authority of Fulton County, said the proposed policy for the city is sound.
“It’s 289 jobs you will have tomorrow you don’t have today,” Simmons said, referring to Project Gamma. “It is a pro-business attitude and it shows to the other people out there … that Sandy Springs does have a pro-business attitude.”
McDonough said he hopes to bring a long-term policy back to the council within 90 days.
“It’s important that all businesses play by the same set of rules,” McDonough said. “It’s a balance between new and existing businesses.”
McEnerny said the community needs more businesses to locate in Sandy Springs, which brings more jobs. City Councilman Chip Collins said economic incentives are “a modern reality” for local governments.
“We live in a metropolitan area that’s very competitive,” Collins said.
He added that he’d like to see a policy that provides incentives for small businesses, as well.
City Councilman Gabriel Sterling said he supports a comprehensive incentives policy.
“We’ve got to be business-friendly across the board, small and large alike,” he said.
In other business, the council voted to keep the city’s property tax rate at 4.731 mills on 40 percent of each $1,000 of taxable property. Property taxes for fiscal 2012 were projected to be down $1.7 million, according the city’s budget.