If the authority follows through with the donation, it would mark the second public entity to contribute to the nonprofit EDGE, which is charged with spurring economic development throughout Cobb County.
The cash donation was proposed by Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development manager, who said she is also a member on the redevelopment committee with EDGE, which is housed at the Cobb Chamber.
Board members of the Marietta Development Authority seemed willing to make a financial pledge during a meeting Wednesday, but stopped short of a vote.
Instead, they asked Sessoms for more information on different levels of giving, and how to reach out for a joint meeting between the authority and EDGE.
City Attorney Doug Haynie said the board members need to determine if the EDGE program is eligible for a grant by the Development Authority.
Haynie estimated that the Development Authority has available cash funds in excess of $100,000 and said the cash is open to be issued as grants for business development but not charities.
The authority’s mission is “enhancing employment in Marietta,” Haynie said.
Sessoms described EDGE as serving that mission on a county-wide basis. She said EDGE aims to be proactive in engaging the community and working to attract international businesses to the area.
“I do think they are trying to think outside the box,” Sessoms said about EDGE.
$1.5 million in pledges for EDGE
Sessoms told the Marietta Development Authority board that participants in EDGE have discussed how issues affecting area cities might be solved by changes to Cobb County.
“I support making the county a better place,” said board member Sterling Wharton, the new owner of Willie Rae’s and The Butcher, The Baker on the Square. “As the county does better, so will Marietta.”
Haynie said every city Marietta’s size in Georgia has a similar board that is allowed by state law to assist with project development by issuing bonds.
Sessoms said the Marietta Development Authority is the only group on a city level in Cobb County that focuses on industrial and business complex development.
Brooks Mathis, executive director of Competitive EDGE, said the organization has raised $1.5 million in pledges to date, most of it from private businesses, utilities and universities.
An online list of investors at www.cobbedge.com includes Bank of North Georgia, Clear Channel, Georgia Power, The Home Depot, Wells Fargo, WellStar Health System, Southern Polytechnic State University and Kennesaw State University, as well as the self-taxed Town Center Area Community Improvement District.
Also at the meeting Wednesday, the Development Authority for the first time since being established in 1989 defined the types of companies to receive incentives from the group to relocate to the city of Marietta.
Sessoms said potential businesses are probably fielding offers from other states and, in order to compete, the independent board issues grants.
“We hold incentives to close a deal,” Sessions said.
The board unanimously approved a set of guidelines to rate companies that have expressed an interest, which Sessoms said allows her to frame expectations on what can be offered.
“We know you are all going to back us up,” Sessoms said.
The policy states money offered by the Development Authority will be balanced with funds from the state and the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.
“This gives you all a place at the table,” said board member Judy Renfro, who owns Renfro Hospitality consulting and is the former president of the Cobb County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
‘Favored’ businesses in Marietta
The first guideline for a new business is to create a minimum of 25 full-time jobs within one year, as stated on the Relocation Grant Policy.
It also states a company must make a capital investment of $500,000 or more within one year toward construction, equipment purchases or improvements to an existing facility.
The approved policy specified “favored” companies that focus on green practices and renewable energy.
Preference will be given to “community businesses such as those in the health care industry that would help to sustain or encourage the growth of WellStar; companies that complement the aerospace industry as to sustain Lockheed Martin,” as stated on the Relocation Grant Policy.
James Southerland, director of Mayes Ward-Dobbins Funeral Home and a member of the Development Authority, encouraged the board to consider businesses that might be high-risk from an investor standpoint.
Southerland said technology companies have great growth potential with large salaries, but the value is in intellectual property.
Created by the city, the Development Authority has seven members elected by City Council and is staffed through Marietta’s Office of Economic Development.
“They really don’t have a budget,” said Haynie about the Development Authority’s main role of transferring money to businesses on a “case by case basis.”
A company offers collateral to be approved for a bond that is sold by a third party on the open market, Haynie said. The Development Authority oversees the transaction for a fee, he said.
The bond is not guaranteed with taxpayer money and the city is not liable, he said.
Haynie added that the Development Authority is defined as a 501c3 by a state statute.
Wharton said Marietta residents get a great deal with the Development Authority.
“It is not a burden to taxpayers; we are a benefit,” Wharton said.