Councilwoman Learnard: The rest of the story about Low Temp
Months after Low Temp decided not to pursue a move to Peachtree City, misunderstandings still abound. This is to highlight the process that takes place when an industry such as Low Temp considers relocating to a community.
Low Temp Industries is a privately held, third generation manufacturing company currently located in Clayton County. Because they are interested in possibly expanding and relocating, company officials have been looking at several communities in multiple counties over a period of years.
Over two years ago, Low Temp contacted the Fayette County Development Authority, and together, Low Temp and FCDA toured possible relocation sites in the Peachtree City industrial park and throughout the county.
It is customary for a company to have a list of requirements, concessions that would make their move financially worthwhile. Concessions typically involve road improvements; reduced utility rates; sewer tap fee reductions; and tax breaks.
(Tax breaks are sometimes based on the number of anticipated new hires and their salaries. For example, 100 new management employees making $100,000 per year can infuse a lot of dollars into a community. This helps a community cost-justify tax breaks.)
These concessions must be paid for by either the county or the municipality – in other words, taxpayers.
Low Temp’s concessions list included construction of a $550,000 sewer system at no charge to the company, a waiver of the $51,000 sewer tap fee, a 10-year graduated tax abatement, and a 75 percent reduction of all fees. This list was, in the company’s own words, “substantial” but “needed for the project feasibility.”
County officials had to determine whether or how the Low Temp project would benefit Fayette County taxpayers. It’s terrific to imagine bringing a thriving manufacturing business to our community, but not if taxpayers must pay more to get the business here than they will realize in a return on their investment over time.
And while many of the concessions would have been absorbed by Fayette county taxpayers as a whole, the Peachtree City annexed location meant Peachtree City sewer customers would have had to shoulder the costs of the sewer concessions, which would have necessitated a rate increase.
The fact that the 165 Low Temp employees already live in Clayton County pointed to the strong possibility that we were not talking about new jobs or new home buyers, but new commuters, to the tune of 165 cars on our roads twice a day.
The cost benefit model presented an 80-year payback – much too long to make financial sense. (In prosperous times, a 7-year payback was considered excellent.) County officials ultimately declined the project.
Now fast forward to early 2010 and a new mayor in Peachtree City. Mayor Haddix has a strong business background and good relationships with Low Temp CEOs. Not surprisingly, Low Temp tried again. Also not surprisingly, the project made no more sense for taxpayers the second time around than it did the first time.
Although Mayor Haddix, DAPC Director Mark Hollums, and Low Temp CEO Ben Casey were diligent, persistent and professional, it was with a measure of mutual regret that the project did not come to fruition.
The fact that this particular project did not work out does not in any way suggest that Peachtree City officials have reduced our emphasis on economic development strategies that make sense for our community. Mr. Casey’s public comments point to the need for a central point of contact, and Council has taken those comments to heart.
In 2010, a new president of FCDA has emerged as experienced, capable, and excited about working together with Peachtree City to recruit and promote industry in our industrial park.
In August, City Council created and approved a new, full-time staff position of Economic Development Coordinator. The job description for this position includes working with both the FCDA and DAPC, aggressively recruiting new businesses, recognizing and supporting existing businesses, coordinating support for retailers and the Village Centers, and creating and implementing a comprehensive economic development strategic plan to meet the specific needs of our community.
In September, a special called meeting between DAPC and City Council jump-started what I expect to be a strong, positive relationship among the many individuals who intend to make economic development a continued priority in PTC.
We followed up with both the regular DAPC meeting, and a marketing strategy session focused on “Find it in Fayette” and “Shop in Peachtree City” promotions in time for the holidays.
The challenges are real – but the talents and resources are many. The next DAPC meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 4 starting at 6 p.m. in the Floy Farr Room at City Hall. It is open to the public.
City Council Post 3
Peachtree City, Ga.