Chamber opposes plan to raise license fee for large businesses in Macon-Bibb

At a public hearing on a proposal that would raise license fees for large companies in Macon, only one person spoke against it, but it was a prominent voice.

Currently businesses pay a $65 administrative fee annually for a business license, then an additional $39 per employee up to 250 employees. The proposed change would remove the limit, so any business with more than 250 employees would pay the $39 fee for all employees.

Therefore, a business with 500 employees would pay additional $9,750 annually.

Yvonne Williams, president of the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, voiced concerns about the proposal.

“An increase of license fees would adversely impact the competitive advantage of businesses and citizens,” Williams said.

Macon-Bibb Commissioner Virgil Watkins, who sponsored the change, said he proposed it after learning other larger cities in the state did not have a limit on the per-employee fee. He said the additional fee is needed to offset the cost of government services to those employers.

“Macon-Bibb is grossly below the average of what other communities are charging,” he said.

Some large companies would be exempt because those are already exempt from the license fee for various reasons.

For instance, Geico, which employs about 5,700 people, is exempt because insurance companies pay a fee set by the state, said Assistant County Attorney Michael McNeill. The Medical Center, Navicent Health, which employs 4,600, is also exempt because it is a non-profit.

The county lists 14 businesses that would be impacted by the change. Those are Armstrong World Industries, Cherokee Brick & Tile Company, Graphic Packaging International, Kohl’s Department Stores, Kumho Tire of Georgia, Beasley Flooring Products, Coliseum Medical Hospital, Coliseum Northside Hospital, First Quality Baby Products, Ricoh USA, Sportsman’s Distribution Company of Georgia, Tractor Supply Company, YKK Corporation of America and Amazon.

Watkins said he did not know how much additional revenue the change could actually generate.

The proposal will next be considered by the Operations and Finance Committee, which Watkins chairs. The next committee meeting is set for Oct. 22.

If it is approved there, it will go before the full commission for a vote.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.