Tax incentives to attract and retain jobs in Alpharetta

I have watched with great interest as local and state governments have become very aggressive in providing tax incentives for businesses that are willing to relocate into or extend a commitment to stay in their communities. If you read closely enough in any of the recent press releases about a business relocation you will find some indication that the local government was willing to sacrifice some short term tax revenue for the long term growth it could provide.

If you are unfamiliar with the phenomenom I suggest you read this article about the incentives which enticed Porsche to move their North American Headquarters from Sandy Springs to the old Ford plant site near Hartsfield airport. You can also read here on the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce site how Sandy Springs is aggressively pursuing policies that will attract businesses:

 Last night, the Sandy Springs City Council voted to establish reductions in the occupation tax to benefit businesses located in the City. The reductions include a blanket out-of-state sales exemption and a blanket franchise fee exemption for franchisees, which are located out-of-state. In addition, the Council further reduced the cap on maximum occupation tax paid in any one tax year from $400,000 to $75,000.

As a real estate agent I know it is always better to compete on features if you can. But I also realize that in the end it often comes down to price. And in today’s economy price is more important than ever before.

Back in December of 2010 I wrote a blogpost titled “Kudos to the City of Alpharetta for reducing fees as an incentive for new businesses!” which praised the city for taking a small step toward this innovative approach. You can read the whole thing here.

As a City Councilman I would like to see Alpharetta pursue these avenues more aggressively. I know that my opponent in this campaign will try to portray me as “anti-growth’ but that is patently absurd.

I am not anti-growth. I just support growth we can live with.

Would you trade $123,000,000 worth of jobs for 546 condos?

Well that’s what the Alpharetta City Council is poised to do on Monday, February 28. That is when the city will vote on the high density mixed use Peridot project that MetLife has requested.

I’d prefer the city show they can make one of the already approved mixed use projects work before approving any more but I have listened to the justifications for this project. I listened to City Council Members say the project would reduce traffic, bring jobs and pay for road improvements. It just seemed too good to be true. And as my Dad used to say,”if something sounds too good to be true,son, it probably is.”

So I decided to check the numbers for myself. Sure enough it was too good to be true. While City Council Members tout the benefits of the MetLife project they have failed to mention that the benefits would come at an enormous price. Based on the numbers provided by the developer the Alpharetta City Council will essentially vote whether or not we will exchange 1894 jobs worth $123,000,000 a year for 546 condos in a completely saturated market.

Are you skeptical? You should be. I couldn’t believe it myself. But facts are facts and you can check it out for yourself.

First you just need to look at the Alpharetta Community Development Department’s comparison of the current zoning for the MetLife parcel to the new zoning proposed for the Peridot project. You can find that analysis on page 10 here: Notice that the major change proposed is a reduction of office space by 568,320 square feet and the addition of 546 condominiums covering 655,200 square feet.

Then take a look at the job projections that MetLife submitted for analysis by the Atlanta Regional Commission on page 17 and 18 here:  The developer’s analysis shows that office space is expected to add “1 employee per 300 SF”. That means a reduction of 568,320 square feet of office space would eliminate 1894 potential jobs from the parcel. So if you plug the salary numbers MetLife used on page 18 for the various occupations you will see that the lost salaries from that zoning change would be more than $123,000,000 a year!

Maybe Alpharetta’s Community Development Department doesn’t mind trading 1894 badly needed jobs for 546 condos in an already saturated market but I know a few Alpharetta residents that beg to disagree. I’m just not so sure any of them are on City Council.

Jobs, jobs, jobs

According to the Gallup polling group unemployment in the United States remains over 10%. The latest numbers from the federal government put the number closer to 9 %  but that lower number doesn’t include the 2.8 million people that have completely given up on the hope of finding a job.

Unemployment is a major cause of the ongoing real esate crisis and continues to impact families all over our nation and it is good to hear politicians repeating the phrase “jobs, jobs, jobs”. It is just a shame that government policies don’t seem to reflect the jobs mantra being espoused by politicians. 

President Obama has been on a charm offensive ever since the November elections trying to convince the American people that jobs are his number one priority now. Just last week he spoke to the same American Chamber of Commerce that he vilified a few months ago and he used the occasion to repeatedly emphasize the need for more job creation. Then less than three days later the director of the Congressional Budget testified before congress that the President Obama’s historic health care bill will cause the loss of 800,000 jobs.

800,000 jobs lost because of one stroke of the president’s pen?

It is nice to hear politicians finally talking about jobs. It’s just a shame that when it comes down to a choice between jobs and political goals they often make the wrong choice.