ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission approved a policy and criteria plan for the Albany City Commission-financed Job Investment Fund at the EDC's monthly meeting Wednesday, but discussion of the plan indicated it is far from ready for implementation.
The fund, a one-third share of Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia credits returned to the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission from a fund collected as a hedge against deregulation, is overseen by the City Commission's Long-Term Financial Planning Committee. That committee suggested, and the full commission approved, a plan to use the funding to entice businesses to locate in the city and county.
The fund, which will continue to be bolstered by MEAG credits through 2018, is expected to grow as large as $30 million.
The first sign of potential trouble with the policy and criteria plan came when EDC President Ted Clem discussed possible ways of replenishing the Job Investment Fund even as the funds are being used. County Commission Chairman Richard Crowdis balked at Clem's mention of using PILOT (payments in lieu of tax) agreements and additional taxes resulting from the impacted projects to keep the funds from dissipating.
"There can't be any commitment on the county's part (to use tax money to replenish funds); I need to get that on the record in this open meeting," Crowdis said. "(Use of tax funds) is different for the county than the city, and I don't believe the county can make any kind of commitment to help replenish the (Job Investment) fund.
"I don't want to put a wet blanket on things, but I have to mention the county's concerns. As (the plan) is, it's very general and I'm in favor of it. But I think it's important that you know up front where the county stands."
City Manager James Taylor and Albany City Commissioner Christopher Pike said the Long-Term Financial Planning Committee had envisioned a fund that would be replenished when the committee and commission agreed to creating the Job Investment Fund.
"If you don't recover the money (put into the fund), by 2018 you're out of business," Taylor said. "I don't believe there's anyone involved in this who isn't going to support using the funds to bring jobs to our community, but you need to figure out how you're going to do it before you bring it to the commission."
Pike, who is also a member of the Long-Term Financial Planning Committee, said he'd like to see elected officials from the county's taxing authorities (the city and county commissions and the Dougherty County School System's School Board) discuss ways that tax funds might be used to keep the Job Investment Fund operating beyond the $30 million MEAG contributions.
"I don't think anyone will disagree that creating (a potential) 5,000 jobs is a huge positive in the community," Pike said. "But I know the (LTFPC) envisions this as a long-term investment. There are a number of different ways we can make that work. We just have to sit down and discuss it.
"At our recent retreat, we were asked one of the goals we'd like to most see accomplished, and I said I'd like to see us close a deal on bringing a business here using the Job Investment Fund. I think that would be phenomenal. And even though we still have some work to do on it, I think it's going to happen."
Clem said the policy and criteria plan for the Job Investment Fund includes projects that bring a minimum of 100 new jobs or capital investment of at least $10 million in its first three years of operation to the community. Funding, which would be awarded on a point system based on jobs, investment and weekly wages, would be capped at $6 million.
Eligible uses would include land or building acquisition, infrastructure improvements, site improvements, construction costs, equipment purchases and installation, and engineering and architectural fees associated with a qualifying project.
"We strongly suggest that these awards be considered on a project-by-project basis," Clem said.
When city and county officials pointed out the need for more clarity in the document, Clem said, "The argument is about money that is not here because the companies aren't here. This document is an effort to put a process in place that would help get them here."
Also at the meeting, the EDC board approved a lease agreement that will allow the commission staff to move to property at 125 Pine Ave. The lease agreement between the EDC and TUFF AgServ LLC of Kennesaw, which owns the property, is for six years at fixed rates.
The EDC will pay $2,475 in monthly rent for the first two years of the agreement, $2,700 for the next two years and $2,925 monthly for the final two years.
Crowdis, who was part of a committee that looked into the pros and cons of separating the EDC from the Chamber's offices, told the board, "This appears to be a pretty good agreement."
Clem said the EDC could move into the new office space as early as April 1.