Houston a finalist for two major businesses

mstucka@macon.comJuly 16, 2014 

The Development Authority of Houston County is a finalist for a $70 million plant expansion and is also a finalist for an $11 million factory and U.S. headquarters.

Authority members acted Wednesday to help make Houston County look much more attractive to new businesses.

The authority will tap its financial reserves to expand its marketing budget from $30,000 to $80,000 during the next year, Chairman Mark Byrd said. Some of that money, perhaps $20,000, could go toward hiring professionals to build a new website and help with branding.

On Wednesday, the authority’s board also launched a committee to look at what incentives the authority could offer up front. Other communities, including Bibb County, have developed preapproved slates of incentives, such as certain tax breaks that kick in after a business invests $25 million.

Jim Lovett, an economic development manager for Georgia Power, suggested the authority should focus on reducing upfront costs and try to leverage a vacant spec building the authority owns in Perry. The authority, for example, could scale the contributions, such as chipping in $2 million toward a $30 million investment or $3 million toward a $50 million investment.

Any tax breaks would have to be approved by the governments that would collect the taxes, such as Houston County, cities and the school system.

Lovett warned, though, that fronting some of the costs could leave the Development Authority or the government responsible for payments if the company defaulted.

In other business, Executive Director Angie Gheesling said she’ll go next week to compete against three other communities, all in Georgia, for Project Black Horse, which would bring a factory and U.S. headquarters from a 100-year-old firm, she said. The authority’s spec building could be used by the project.

Project 25 would involve a $70 million expansion of an existing manufacturer, Gheesling said. The local facility has already started some training efforts, which the Development Authority agreed to invest $5,000 in. The training program has the potential to help other area businesses.

Gheesling said she expects an announcement on another new business in the next few weeks.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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