Beverly wants Macon development zone expanded

mlee@macon.comFebruary 22, 2013 

ATLANTA -- A bipartisan bill just filed in the state House would make more of Macon part of a special development zone that’s seeking outside dollars to help lure investors to the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

The poorest parts of Macon are already covered by the Macon-Bibb County Community Enhancement Authority, defined as census blocks with a poverty rate of 40 percent or more. That area would be extended to adjacent, “less developed” areas under House Bill 410 by state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon.

The bill makes the area about 40 to 50 percent larger, Beverly said. Now it roughly covers south and east Macon, but Beverly, who carried the bill that created the authority last year, said the expansion is a good idea.

The Pleasant Hill neighborhood around Walnut Street, for example, qualifies to be part of the authority now. But neighborhoods surrounding it don’t, leaving it isolated. That isolated island would be less attractive for what the authority is trying to do: attract businesses to Macon’s lowest-income areas.

The authority is still a work in progress. It doesn’t have any members yet, and Beverly is still writing the rules and finding the money for incentives that would attract investment.

Beverly reported he’s “starting the application for a New Markets tax credit.” That’s a federal tax credit worth 39 percent of a project’s capital cost. Programs like that will be the authority’s funding strategy: Find grants and tax credits rather than raise its own money.

The authority is not ready to source deals yet, Beverly said, but the proposal would help lay what he called the “infrastructure” to make deals work.

“Probably in the next couple of years we’ll populate the board,” he said. It will also have professional management just like the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority and other such bodies.

The bill has yet to be scheduled for a hearing, but it’s attracted signatures from two Bibb Republicans and another Democrat. With that kind of bipartisan agreement, and since it affects just one jurisdiction, it could move through the House in a matter of days.

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