Wal-Mart on schedule for 2010

ALBANY -- Albany-Dougherty Planning Director Howard Brown has seen first-hand the way the rumor mill works in the county during his year-plus in office here. So when the latest batch of negative rumors concerning construction of the East Albany Wal-Mart surfaced Monday, he acted quickly to dispel them.

Citing an e-mail from Elexa Wagaman with Atlanta-based Meyers Brothers Properties LLC, the developer that is handling the Albany deal for Wal-Mart, Brown stated unequivocally Tuesday that the rumors simply are not true.

"We hear these rumors, too, and when they come up we do everything we can to make sure they are only rumors," Brown, who is the point man for the city and county on the Wal-Mart project, said. "I think it's very clear in this case that someone took a little bit of information and turned it into something it wasn't."

That "little bit of information" concerns a shift in what Wagaman called in her e-mail to Brown "the delivery date" of the planned Wal-Mart Supercenter at Cordele Road and Clark Avenue.

"I received your message yesterday requesting an update on the proposed store on Cordele (Road)," Wagaman wrote. "I am pleased to put to rest any rumors that this store has been pulled from Wal-Mart's plans. This is not the case.

"However, Wal-Mart has shifted around some of their delivery dates, and this store has been a victim of this rescheduling. At this time, we expect to close on the property shortly after the new year and get construction under way immediately thereafter."

Contacted Monday about the rumors, local officials quickly disavowed knowledge of any changes in plans for construction of the Wal-Mart and asked Brown to follow up with the project developer.

"I've heard nothing of that," Dougherty County Commission Chair Jeff Sinyard said Monday while on a business trip to Atlanta. "I pray for all the right reasons that it's nothing more than a rumor."

Assistant City Manager Wes Smith said recent designation by the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission of the proposed Wal-Mart site as part of a military zone ensured sizable tax credits for the retailer. He said those credits could add up to $8 million in savings over five years.

"I've heard nothing of Wal-Mart deciding not to build here; in fact, I would think that the military zone tax credits would be even more incentive for them to move the project forward," Smith said.

Barbara Rivera Holmes with the EDC said including the proposed Wal-Mart site in the military zone application was intentional. The zone includes census tracts 1, 101, and 107, all located adjacent to Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, according to EDC documents.

"We made sure they were in the area when we applied to the state," she said. "The designation allows for enhanced tax credits that would greatly benefit the company. The state Department of Community Affairs allows for enhanced tax credits for certain types of businesses that bring as many as five new jobs to a Tier 1 community. With the military zone designation, any industry that brings two or more new jobs gets 'x' amount of tax credit per employee."

The EDC said businesses that bring at least two new jobs in the designated military zone receive a $3,500-per-job credit for five years, so long as the jobs are maintained.

"The (military zone) designation provides a stimulative effect for the area that surrounds MCLB-Albany and provides greater incentive for economic activity to locate there," Albany-Dougherty EDC President Ted Clem said in a recent news release. "It also helps the area be more competitive for a host of businesses that may be looking to work with the military base."