Commissioners voted 4-1 to amend the county urban redevelopment plan and make the expansion request to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
According to Chris Pumphrey, director of the Douglas County Development Authority, board approval is the first step in moving forward on the application process.
“The public hearing comes before the plan is amended,” explained Pumphrey.
The amended plan, on which the county and city development authorities are working together, would create an additional state-designated “opportunity zone” along the I-20 corridor which includes Thornton Road, Blair’s Bridge Road and Riverside Parkway.
These areas qualify under Georgia Department of Community Affairs criteria for those within or adjacent to a census block group with a 15 percent or greater poverty level.
Once the designation is approved by the state community affairs department, companies get a tax credit of $3,500 per new job created if they create a minimum of two jobs in the zone.
The most recently approved opportunity zones along Thornton Road and Bankhead Highway went into effect in November, said Pumphrey.
One company that will benefit from the tax credit designation is AGC Glass North America, an Alpharetta-based glass fabrication center, according to Pumphrey.
He said the company plans to locate in an existing building at 660 Campbell Court in Lithia Springs in mid-2013, bringing 92 existing jobs and plans to fill an additional 46 jobs.
Pumphrey stressed that an opportunity zone does not include residential property but targets areas with new job growth opportunity.
“Urban development is solely for bringing in new jobs and business opportunities,” Pumphrey told the commissioners. “We are not just looking to fill vacant buildings, but to create jobs.”
Robinson raised objections to the wording “slum” and “blight” used in describing opportunity zones, as most of the area proposed falls under his eastern Douglas County district.
In the context of an opportunity zone, the definition of “blight” means vacant properties, Pumphrey explained.
“If you have high unemployment rates, high poverty rates,” he added. “you still have the criteria for an opportunity zone.”
While District 1 Commissioner Henry Mitchell III agreed with Robinson on what he termed “derogatory” language used to describe the designation, he cast his vote in favor of moving forward with the opportunity zone expansion.
“The opportunity outweighs the mere fact of a word that may create a problem,” said Mitchell. “I think it is more important that we move forward with this type of effort.”