EDC touts Sasco growth

ALBANY, Ga. -- An Albany business that almost left for Macon, taking its taxes and jobs with it, will not only stay in Albany but expand, economic development officials say.

Sasco Chemical Group will launch its expansion into a new 40,000-square-foot facility this year and bring new jobs, Andrea Schruijer, vice president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, said. Expectations are that the business will add 15-20 new employees over the next few years.

The Payroll Development Authority recently took action to abate the taxes on a portion of the new development as a part of an incentive package to keep the business in Albany.

The Albany City Commission will also likely give the company access to up to $100,000 of a revolving loan fund which is a part of the city's community and economic development department.

The report came at Wednesday's EDC meeting.

"Through some persistent business retention work by our staff, the PDA, the city and some others, I think we'll be able to keep this business and their jobs here," EDC President Ted Clem told the board.

Also during the meeting, the board heard the results of an Albany State University survey that focused on perceptions of downtown safety from those who work in the downtown area.

With 202 respondents, the survey showed that vast majority of people who work downtown feel either "very safe" or "somewhat safe" during the day. Those responses shifted to a split between "somewhat safe" and "somewhat unsafe" when questioned about being downtown after 5 p.m.

Conducted by students from the university through interviews, handouts and an online survey, the survey results suggest that there was at least a small negative perception of safety downtown, that the respondents thought restaurants and retail were most needed downtown and that most would attend concerts, plays and festivals downtown.

Board members were receptive of the information, but also said that if future surveys were done that they would like to have a larger, more representative sample interviewed and the scope broadened.

The survey does reflect, even to a small degree, a challenge both the city and the EDC face when marketing downtown, Clem said.

"On a complementary level, we do support downtown development because it enhances our mission of creating jobs and promoting economic growth, so promoting and marketing downtown is a concern," Clem said. "I'm sure we'll be able to take this information and take the next step, maybe a more comprehensive survey, to see how to expand."