As more big businesses come to Rockdale, the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council wants to make local hiring a priority-and will conduct first-ever audits of tax incentive deals.
"We have never done it... We don't have ways to check," CREDC Executive Director Marty Jones told the News at the council's March 25 board meeting. "Nobody was thinking of holding their feet to the fire."
The incentive audits and local hiring preferences were discussed at CREDC's March 25 board meeting, where Jones said more business expansion is on the way.
Jones said he cannot yet name names, but a local business will announce a 37,000-square-foot expansion in 30 to 40 days. And an industrial company will occupy a 70,000-square-foot facility somewhere near Pratt Industries, he said.
It appears that neither of those developments involve county or city tax credits. But such deals are a big part of CREDC's deal-making, and board members discussed formulating some sort of standard offer with local hiring preferences and accountability written into a contract.
"In Rockdale County, we have a limited amount of land," said board member Roland Vaughn, explaining that CREDC should make sure it's getting a fair trade for giving up property taxes.
Board member Gerald Rakestraw said enforcement provisions are important, too, because they can be "sticky on the back end."
Jones said that future incentive packages will include a local hiring preference. The board did not establish a specific standard and it will likely vary case by case.
Jones said that the state audits the results of its incentive programs, which are sometimes involved in local development packages. But there is no similar auditing of county and city deals to make sure companies hit local hiring and other promises, he said. That will change, too.
"I'm pretty sure it would be me," Jones told the News when asked who would conduct such audits.
In other CREDC business:
-The board voted to deny a request from Richard Oden, chairman and CEO of the Rockdale Board of Commissioners, to reimburse the county for a brochure and lunch connected to a development-oriented trip to Taiwan he took last year. The $3,148 bill included a brochure showing his vision for a mega-development on Sigman Road. The county commission already covered the bill, but Oden has sought reimbursement, first from the Downtown Development Authority, which previously declined.
CREDC board members noted Oden got no prior approval for the expenses, and that the Sigman Road brochure is of no future use to CREDC because of what Jones called "some inaccuracies." Oden's fellow commissioner, Oz Nesbitt, who vice-chairs CREDC, was among the critics.
"He took the trip, then came back with an expense... saying, ‘I'm asking you all to foot the bill.' That's just not business," Nesbitt said. "The bill's been paid. If I was chairman, I'd say it's done and move on."
-The board changed its meeting date to the second Tuesday of each month. It will skip its April meeting and next meet on May 13.