"The entrance sign to Highland 75 was damaged and it was actually removed from the pedestal. So we've got it in storage temporarily until we can repair it. It will be reinstalled, we will also install security lights and possibly cameras to hopefully prevent this in the future," said Melinda Lemmon, executive director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development.
The repair and installation of the sign as approved by the JDA will cost $3,000. Measures discussed to dissuade vandalism included motion sensor cameras and other possible security provisions. Motions approved were a temporary agreement with Georgia Power to provide floodlights for the sign and a budget of up to $500 for additional security measures to be made.
"It was discouraging to see damage done right after the sign had been put up. We hadn't even gotten to the landscaping yet before damage was done. So we're going to work very hard to prevent this in the future or at least discourage it as much as possible," Lemmon said.
Excitement surrounded the possibility of applications submitted recently for two areas to be designated as Less Developed Census Tract. Acceptance would mean that jobs created in those areas surrounding the former Trinity Rail Group and that of Mohawk's Cartersville facility may be eligible for tax credits. The JDA expects to hear a result from their application next month.
"Less Developed Census Tract is the designation that we really need to seek. The Department of Community Affairs is processing that and at the end of the day, the benefit will be the same as with an opportunity zone and that is the increased job tax credits," Lemmon said. "Any business that creates two or more jobs, as long as it's not husband and wife, can essentially take advantage of job tax credits, which is a tool that we can only use right now in manufacturing.
"That can encourage job creation here as opposed to other places. There are not very many opportunity zones in the state of Georgia at all. This is a unique tool; it would really put us on the map"
Highland 75 is currently awaiting certification as a Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development site. Through a beta test program, the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development will improve their online commercial and industrial real estate guide with the help of Chattanooga-based Vision Point's new software, Match Point. For the trial period, a discount will be given to test the program, which maps and coordinates available properties.
Providing a marketing overview, principal with TPA Realty Services Jim Watson described the near stagnant real estate market and the challenges posed by abundant existing buildings and landlords with a willingness to negotiate.
"The market, as everyone knows, continues to be sporadic. There is existing building activity that has increased over the last second quarter and into the third. From a greenspace, land-acquisition standpoint, there has been sporadic interest. We have met with a couple of potential clients, however, the activity that we're seeing -- whether it be in north Cobb County, whether it be in existing buildings in Bartow County -- those customers that are looking for expansion and or relocation are understanding the economies they can reach by negotiating either with an existing landlord or moving to an open existing space. So, our efforts continue ... one step ahead of the other, one day after the next and keep on keeping on but it's still tough sledding right now," Watson said.
Having not met since May, the JDA reviewed financial reports covering three months, which continued to come in under budget. Lemmon attributed these numbers to efforts taken by staff to keep down the operating expenses. These savings can then go toward debt service payments, she said.
"We always have tried to do more with less, especially since the economy took a downturn. We are being conservative with everything we that we can. Particularly with the operating budget that staff has some control over. So we're doing a lot in house, we're using software and electronics to be faster and smarter, yet more customer service-oriented -- same thing any business would have to go through in operating better in this crazy economic environment that we're in," Lemmon said. "I think we'll come under budget again this year. Each year, we've asked for a smaller amount in our operating budget than the previous year out of respect, certainly it's not that the need is not there, but out of respect to our city and county partners that fund our department. We know what they're going through as well and we want them to know that we're doing our part."