Brookhaven’s efforts to get state tax incentives for businesses along one of its corridors could receive support from an Atlanta law firm if City Council approves a proposed measure later this month.

Councilmen at their April 21 meeting are slated to consider an engagement letter with DLA Piper LLP that would have the law firm represent the city and its development authority in the pursuit of an opportunity zone.

The proposal had been on the council’s April 7 agenda, but was tabled to give city leaders time to discuss the opportunity zone application with potential partners—companies that could reap the benefits from the opportunity zone designation.

If granted the opportunity zone designation by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, new and existing businesses in the zone that create at least two or more new jobs could earn a maximum job tax credit of $3,500 per new employee.

The city has already invested $25,000 in the application to have a portion of Buford Highway declared an opportunity zone. Areas within or adjacent to a census block group with 15 percent or greater poverty where an enterprise zone or urban redevelopment plan exists are eligible to become opportunity zones under state regulations.

“[The opportunity zone program] was designed to take areas that were designated as poverty stricken, and blight—and ‘blight’ was a key word used in the description of what would qualify—and according to the 2010 Census tract, we in Brookhaven, along Buford Highway, is what I describe as ‘ground zero,’ which is a highly qualified candidate to participate in an opportunity zone,” said Councilman Joe Gebbia, whose district includes the area at the center of the city’s application.

“This could be a tremendous incentive, as we move down the road, for key areas along Buford Highway, especially in our annexed areas,” Gebbia added. “I’m talking about in particular Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, talking about Executive Park. It could be a key impetus to redevelopment of Corporate Square. The gains to us as a city are in the multi-million-dollar range—very, very significant.”

No other area of Brookhaven is eligible for the opportunity zone designation.

While the aim of the designation would be to spur economic development within the zone, officials said other parts of the city could receive a positive impact from it as well.

“One of the things that I think is important, really the foundation of an opportunity zone, is to create and attract jobs because of incentives, but what’s not written into the law is the catalyst that these type of jobs create by creating other jobs that many times are not in the opportunity zone, but they come to service off of large employment bases,” City Manager Marie Garrett said. “I think we certainly can expect that to happen.”

“While I’m not really in favor of entitlements or programs that are out there giving out taxpayers’ money, this one has a direct benefit to the area that I can get behind, and that is creating jobs,” Councilman Bates Mattison said.

“We’re not only looking for the redevelopment of an area that is economically blighted, but we’re also creating jobs, which allows people to afford living in Brookhaven, hopefully, but also helping bring more businesses to Brookhaven.”

— Jon Gargis