SMYRNA — Businesses in parts of Smyrna and unincorporated Cobb have new reasons to invest in the area now the city has approved a local tax incentive program.
Smyrna will partner with the county to administer the Smyrna-Osborne “enterprise zone”— an area in which new or existing businesses can apply to receive economic incentives in exchange for bringing jobs and commerce to the vicinity.
The City Council approved its creation in June with a 6-0 vote, with Councilman Charles Welch absent.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners approved the county’s role in the enterprise zone at an earlier meeting.
“It’s no different from the regular enterprise zone, just a matter that both the city and the county have to approve it in order for it to be created,” said Dana Johnson, deputy director of the county’s Community Development Agency.
Johnson said it would be the first joint city-county enterprise zone in Cobb.
Councilman Wade Lnenicka, who was first elected to the City Council in 1988, said the city already works with the county on such efforts as code enforcement and transportation planning.
“We both recognize the area needs economic development, and we’re trying to create incentives for that area,” Lnenicka said.
Business within the boundaries of the enterprise zone falling within the city will have their applications for incentives reviewed by the city, while the county government will do the same for businesses within unincorporated Cobb.
Jered Sigmon, Smyrna’s economic development coordinator, said businesses must meet certain minimum requirements to be considered eligible for enterprise zone incentives.
Sigmon said a qualified business must create at least five new full-time jobs. Both commercial and residential developers can also qualify for the incentives, Sigmon said, whether they’re building new construction or rehabilitating existing property, so long as their capital investment is five times larger than the value of the land.
Sigmon said developers hoping to use the incentives to build on a $100,000 piece of land must invest at least $500,000 to qualify.
For businesses that pass those thresholds, Sigmon said, two types of incentives are available, which the city will dole out on a case-by-case basis.
He said enterprise zone incentives include waivers of state, county or city ad valorem property taxes or reductions in local fees, such as those for building permits and business licenses.
Johnson said he expects the Smyrna-Osborne enterprise zone to be fully functional within a few days of the City Council vote, after paperwork is completed.
The zone was legally created as soon as the council voted to approve it, he added.
Lnenicka said he thinks the enterprise zone will work well with a joint city-county project included on the SPLOST list the council approved in a 6-0 vote, should voters approve the tax in November.
The project, a $40 million endeavor to be split between the county and city, would improve traffic along Windy Hill Road.
Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents the area, has said he is on board with the proposed Windy Hill improvements.
Lnenicka said the project and the economic redevelopment efforts of the enterprise zone would dovetail and create a “symbiotic effect” for the area.
“The Windy Hill corridor runs right through the heart of this enterprise zone,” Lnenicka said. “I think that’s another example of how the city and county are working together to make things better for the people.”
Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson, who represents Ward 5, where much of the enterprise zone falls, said the area has “a lot of empty buildings.”
“It’ll be good for small business owners, and it will hopefully get people to invest in the area,” Wilkinson said.