"It's an incentive to encourage businesses to create jobs. We hope that those frankly make a good dent in providing replacement jobs for those lost by Mohawk and Trinity. I hope people realize that most communities will take years to replace the kinds of job numbers that we've lost with those two or three companies," said Melinda Lemmon, director of Cartersville-Bartow County Department of Economic Development. "We've got a lot work ahead of us to replace those jobs. This puts a method in place that we don't have right now."
The city's press release announcing the move says Georgia Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Mike Beatty could grant temporary Opportunity Zone designations in Census tracts 9604 and 9606, where Mohawk Industries, Trinity Rail Group and Wheeler's Building Supply were located to encourage new or existing businesses in those areas to create jobs. Companies creating at least two eligible jobs would be able to claim up to a $3,500 tax credit per job, which they could then use against corporate tax liability and possibly payroll withholding taxes.
Bartow's unemployment rate consistently has been above the state average for some time, the release said. Two weeks ago, The Daily Tribune News reported the county's rate had inched up in June to 11.2 percent, up three-tenths of a percentage from the previous month.
It was the first increase in Bartow in five months after a steady decline resulting in the lowest numbers since May of last year. The increase may be related to the closure of Mohawk, which announced in June it would conduct gradual layoffs through this month.
The state's average declined to a 10-percent seasonally adjusted rate in June, down one-tenth of a percentage point from May.
Wheeler's, which closed in 2008 with the elimination of 39 jobs, and the recently announced closing of Mohawk, which will take a total of 229 jobs, affected Census tract 9606, which had a 16.1-percent unemployment rate while Mohawk phased out employment.
City officials say in the release Mohawk's closure represents a 5.1-percent displacement in the labor force in the area, and only 2 percent is required to be demonstrated in requesting Beatty name the tract an Opportunity Zone. While Census tract 9604 has a lower unemployment rate than the state average, the 659 jobs lost when Trinity shut its doors in August 2009 represents 9.39 percent of the area's labor force, which exceeds the 4-percent job displacement required to be demonstrated.
Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown and Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini, who each supported the request, should know if Beatty grants the designations in about 45 days. If approved, information on how businesses receive the credits will be forthcoming.
In the meantime, Lemmon has a positive outlook and looks forward to an upturn in the economy.
"We've got so much going for us. When the economy turns around, we still have a fantastic location for business, work force and all these great utilities. It's a good business environment -- the overall cost of doing business is low. All those advantages are still there, and the interstate and infrastructure. All those advantages are still there, they're not going away. We as a community are poised for turnaround when it happens. There are going to be some great things that happen here. But we need to be ready for that. We need to put all the tools in place that we possibly can to incentivize quality job creation."