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Chamber Board: Project Kitchen Sink
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BOC discusses HVAC refinancing

Randy Reeves
By: staff_report2

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Dear Citizens of Covington and Newton County:

There has been a lot of discussion about the proposed retail development planned in Covington. The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors would like to provide some facts about our community and this project.
The Chamber of Commerce is proud to be the organization that handles all economic development for Covington and Newton County. We are tasked and funded by both Newton County and the City of Covington to recruit industrial and commercial companies to our community. Our main goals are to create jobs, improve the quality of life, and to expand and diversify our tax base.

Our Office of Economic Development has been working on the proposed retail project for well over a year though you may have heard of it only recently. This project has the opportunity to achieve all of our main goals. Consistently, people, from all parts of the community and walks of life, have let us know that retail is the main thing that people want and need. In a recent survey, the Chamber membership let us know that the members overwhelmingly supported our efforts to recruit more retail to the community. The proposed project is considered to be a mixed use development which includes Class-A Office Space, Hotels, Movie Theatre, Big Box Retail, and Restaurants. It has the potential to create over 1,500 jobs. The developer is proposing an investment of over $200,000,000.00. An investment of this size will have a huge impact on our tax digest. Under the proposed investment numbers, Local Governments would receive $1,316,545 per year, and the Newton County School System would receive $1,856,875 per year. These estimated impacts include both property tax and sales tax collected by City of Covington, Newton County, and the Newton County School System.
A project of this size will take 10 years to build out, and the first phase is the office space and hotel. These office spaces are a real need to our corporate community, some of whom are simply out of space at their current location and contemplating moving. The first phase of the project will allow us to both retain and create new jobs here in Covington. Retail projects will follow suit in Phase 2, creating a regional destination with a full range of shopping and dining options. Currently Newton County residents spend close to $40 million per year on retail outside of our community. This retail leakage is a big concern because those are sales tax dollars that could be used here in Newton County to repair roads, build parks, and improve our quality of life in various other ways. Other communities are benefiting from over 100,000 Newton County residents having to go out of the county (Conyers, Athens, and Atlanta) to buy many of their retail necessities.

The Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors understands that this project is not complete and that the City of Covington and Newton County will have to continue to work together to make this project possible. We applaud their work so far in joining together and discussing this project. As has been mentioned, the developer has asked for infrastructure, including roads, to incentivize this investment. The estimated cost of infrastructure improvements is $5.9MM which will be split by Newton County and the City of Covington. This infrastructure investment is the only incentive being requested and the property owner will begin paying taxes on day one. In this way, the project is unlike your typical large industrial development that seeks tax abatement.

The Chamber is tasked with bringing relevant projects to the City and County that meet the needs of the community to create jobs, improve our quality of life and expand and diversify our tax base. Ultimately, it is up to the City and County to decide if they want to incentivize the creation of 1,500 jobs and $200,000,000 worth of investment. The Chamber Board encourages the elected officials to continue the positive momentum on this project.

Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce
Board of Directors