Houston County backs loan for industrial property purchase

wcrenshaw@macon.comOctober 16, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- In what one official termed as a “game changer,” the Houston County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to back a $9.8 million loan toward the purchase of a tract of land for industrial development.

The Houston County Development Authority made the request so that it can get the loan and pay off an owner-finance agreement that had been reached to buy 678 acres behind the speculative building in Perry. The original purchase price from American Real Estate was $10.7 million and the county has been paying on the note.

Authority board member Mark Byrd said the new loan will allow the authority to pay off the owner note, and the new loan will be paid off once the special local option sales tax dollars are collected. In March, voters approved a sales tax referendum that allotted money to buy land for industrial development.

Byrd said replacing the owner-finance loan will save the county $1.5 million in interest charges.

Angie Gheesling, executive director of the authority, said purchase of the land, which is just off Interstate 75, is a “game changer” in the county’s industrial recruitment efforts.

“This is a great site not just for Houston County ... but the state of Georgia will find this quite valuable in their inventory as well,” Gheesling said.

Luring industry has long been a priority for the county, but recruitment efforts have been hampered by lack of available land. Earlier this year the county also bought a 877-acre tract off A.E. Harris Road for an industrial tract. At Tuesday’s meeting, the board also voted to apply for a $500,000 state grant for infrastructure improvements on the tract.

Commissioner Tom McMichael said at the end of the meeting that he believes the county is close to getting some payoff on its investments.

“I think now we are a player in economic development, and I think we are going to see some results not long range but short range,” he said.

Also at the meeting the board held the second reading and public hearing on an ordinance to raise the price of the license to sell liquor in the county, making the amounts almost identical to those charged by the three cities in the county. No one spoke in the public hearing and the ordinance was approved unanimously.

The total fee to sell beer, wine and liquor would increase from $4,200 annually to $5,000. The new fee takes effect Jan. 1.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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