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County adds incentives for industry expansion bid
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Negotiations are heating up as Conyers and Covington bid to land an unnamed existing industry, which is looking to consolidate its operations to one location.

Rockdale County agreed to make sewer lines more available and more accurately monitor wastewater usage to help save the industry money, in addition to more than $4.1 million in incentives already offered by the city of Conyers.

Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, said the county had agreed to monitor both the wastewater discharge and water consumption of the existing industry, instead of just the water consumption, to more accurately bill for sewage use.

Normally, the sewer bill is calculated based on water usage, said Rockdale Water Resources Director Dwight Wicks. 

A residential household normally returns most of the water that is consumed into the sewer system. But for an industry, water might evaporate during the process or be put into the product and not returned to the sewer system.

“It’s a rather novel approach," Wicks said of the double monitoring. "We currently don’t do that, but we’re looking into that practice."

Wicks said the county is also seeking to make a level playing field in bidding for industries by ensuring that sewer lines will be quickly and readily available to areas that do not currently have sewer lines.

The former John Deere property and the 92 acres next to it are on septic tanks, although the county is working with CSX to run sewer lines under the railroad tracks to the properties.

The city of Conyers has already offered $4.1 million in abatement of ad valorem taxes over 10 years for the industry.

Conyers city manager Tony Lucas said, “The mayor and council had agreed to a tax abatement. After some discussion, they put out 10 years of abatement if the company would locate in one location in Rockdale County.”

The consolidation from about three or four locations to one location would represent an addition of about 100 to 150 more jobs to the area and an expansion of about 500,000 square feet of building space (would this apply for both counties or just Rockdale), said Lucas.

In addition to the tax abatement, Lucas said the city would discount the permitting and inspection fees for the industry, which could represent about $120,000 in savings.

For other utility fees such as electricity and power, the industry would have to negotiate with private companies, such as Georgia Power or Snapping Shoals.

The city of Covington, which operates its own water, sewer and electric utilities, recently approved offering the industry a 20 percent reduction on electricity rates for two years for a savings of about $3,600 to $4,600 a month; a reduction in natural gas rates; waiving building permit fees, which would amount to a discount of about $21,552; waiving sewer and tap fees; allowing the city manger to negotiate a parking lot lighting lease; and offering a 20 percent discount on storm water fees for two years.

The industry is also looking at an existing building in Covington with approximately 220,000 square feet of space.

According to Roger Harrison, with Newton County’s Office of Economic Development, the industry would start out with 900 employees on day one, but assuming a 5 to 6 percent attrition rate, the company would turn over about 600 jobs during a 10-year period. He said the industry was looking at a "lengthy lease" at around 15 years.

The industry was reportedly going to make a decision around Nov. 1, but as of Friday afternoon, Lucas and Sears said they had not heard any updates.