An application process requiring sufficient documentation of sustained unemployment and other variables leading to economic distress was necessary to gain the Opportunity Zone status allowing businesses within the specified regions to receive a job tax credit of $3,500 per job.
The status is retroactive to include 2010 and lasts for 10 years. Unlike other job-creation tax credit programs, only two jobs must be created to take advantage of the Opportunity Zone credits.
"Any company whether it is industrial or commercial, in these areas, that has two or more new full-time jobs can get these increased state job tax credits," said Richard Osbourne, Cartersville city planner. "It's really a competitive advantage that other Georgia cities are using. It is both popular and something now that is the standard for a progressive community that is looking to be solid in terms of economic development and keeping its existing industries as well seeking new ones."
Osbourne, along with the Cartersville Planning and Development Department, have worked with the Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development to conduct research and file the application. Osbourne gave credit also to Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown, as well as Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini and the Cartersville City Council, for leadership in pursuing the designation.
"The state wants to encourage redevelopment in areas that need redevelopment -- where there's consistently higher unemployment rates or signs of distress in these areas than in other areas. This is the state's way of incentivizing investment and redevelopment in these areas," said Melinda Lemmon, Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development director. "Now that this tool is in place, really only positive things can happen toward the redevelopment of these particular areas. As a community, we worked really hard to get this designation."
To claim the job tax credits, at least two jobs must be created within a single tax year, and if jobs are maintained, credits may be claimed on each of the following four years.
Lasting until 2020, the designations can then be renewed if deemed necessary at that time. With nine more years ahead of the current Opportunity Zones, Lemmon is hopeful for growth and encouraged by the benefits seen in eligible companies for 2010. Because of the retroactive nature of this designation, four companies adding a total of 201 jobs have already made initial qualifications to apply for the state maximum job tax credits.
"With the fact that Opportunity Zones go back to the beginning of the year, these four companies could potentially benefit as much as $3.5 million from tax credits that hopefully they'll reinvest in additional people and adding more equipment to grow even more or to redeveloping the property," Lemmon said.
The Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development held workshops for employers last year preparing for the designation announcement. More workshops will be held to help businesses pursue these credits. The Department of Economic Development and the city of Cartersville plan to work with local industry to ensure resources are fully utilized.
"It's going to be an education process in making sure that we work with industries and businesses to sign them up and make sure that every applicable job credit is taken. The Department of Economic Development will be taking the lead in holding sessions with industries to talk about how those job tax credits will work. Through the city, the Planning and Development Department will work on the paperwork and make sure the annual reports to the state and anything else required is completed," Osbourne said.
Lemmon added that there are additional areas throughout the county wishing to encourage redevelopment and she hopes that more Bartow County communities will be added to the list.
Opportunity Zones in Cartersville are designated as the Northwest Industrial area and the South Industrial area. The Northwest Industrial area includes properties on and adjacent to Commerce Drive, Donn Drive, North Erwin Street, Porter Street and Redcomb Drive. The South Industrial area includes properties on and adjacent to South Erwin Street, Industrial Drive, Old Mill Road and River Drive.