ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany City commissioners moved a step closer Tuesday to finalizing plans for a Job Investment Fund that will utilize one-third of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia reimbursement credits being returned each month to the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission, a fund that local development officials say could be a "game-changer" in attracting jobs.
The commission, initially through its Long-Term Financial Planning Committee, will work with the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission to use the funds as incentive to draw business and industry to Albany and Dougherty County. EDC President Ted Clem, who has worked with city officials to develop the Job Investment Fund plan, told the commission Tuesday that funds would be used as financial enticement to businesses bringing -- or existing businesses adding -- at least 100 jobs or investing at least $10 million in the community.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for us because this money will impact start-up costs," Clem told the commission. "We've talked with more than 40 economic developers in the state, and they all say (the fund) could be a game-changer in attracting business."
Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike, who is on the Long-Term Financial Planning Committee, said he's disappointed that Clem hasn't been able to provide specifics that clarify plans for the funding.
"There's a long list of bad decisions we've made just to get something done here," Pike said. "And it's asinine to think any proposal brought to this commission that will create jobs is going to get four votes to turn the proposal down.
"I'd just feel more comfortable seeing clearly how this will work."
Clem said each potential project would come with unique circumstances, making a clear-cut, one-size-fits-all plan unlikely.
"Every project that's presented to this board is going to be different," the EDC president said. "There just isn't a cookie-cutter way of doing this."
Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff and Ward VI's Tommie Postell, both of whom are also on the LTFPC, argued that further delays were pointless.
"Every day that we sit on this because we don't have a specific proposal is a day we're prolonging the nothingness," Langstaff said. "We could keep finding excuses and do nothing forever."
Postell, too, argued that delays served no purpose.
"This is not an 'I' issue -- what 'I' want -- it's an 'us' issue," the Ward VI commissioner said. "We can brainstorm until next year, but brainstorming is not the solution to our problem. I don't want to see this process held up another four or five months over some 'I' issue someone wants.
"Let's quit beating a dead dog and move forward."
Before calling for a vote to approve the Job Investment Fund, which would not be binding until formal approval at the commission's night meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Dorothy Hubbard asked City Attorney Nathan Davis if the plan met legal qualifications.
"Yes, it does," Davis said. "In fact, in talking with other officials across the state, I've heard some of the same comments that Mr. Clem has."