Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Opportunity zones in Milton could attract more businesses.

Courtesy Nicole Dow; Neighbor Newspapers

As a method to increase business development in Milton, the city’s economic development department is trying to get an area of the city designated by the state as an opportunity zone.

“[An opportunity zone] provides for a $3,500 per job tax credit for a period of five years,” said Bill O’Connor, Milton’s economic development director.

“That is designed to provide an incentive for companies to come into an area and set up shop.”

The Highway 9 and Deerfield Parkway corridor over to Ga. 400 north of Windward Parkway is being considered, he said.

“There are certain areas of the city of Milton that qualify for an application [and] meet certain state criteria … but that doesn’t mean that we would necessarily get any or all of it approved,” O’Connor said.

Criteria include having a poverty level of at least 15 percent or being adjacent to an area with that poverty level, he said. It also needs to be an area that is underutilized and could benefit from redevelopment.

“That’s what the legislation intended to do — to spur redevelopment of certain areas that are underutilized,” O’Connor said.

Consultant Joseph Young will be helping the city identify potential opportunity zones and draft up an application to send to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Department of Economic Development for consideration.

The application review process could wrap up by the end of the year or early next year, O’Connor said.

He sees an opportunity zone in Milton as a way to compete with other municipalities when it comes to attracting new businesses. He said he envisions attracting commercial office space, call centers, data centers or bio-technology, healthcare or information technology firms.

“There’s a whole host of very ‘clean’ industries that have high paying jobs and would lend itself to a livable community that we’re looking for in that area where we have live, work and play,” O’Connor said. “We don’t think the area would lend itself to large warehouses or distribution centers or smokestack kinds of industries that are better located elsewhere.”

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