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Forsyth government discussing business incentive changes
By: Kelly Whitmire A Forsyth County group will take a look at future business in the county. At a meeting on Thursday, members of the Forsyth County Development Authority discussed ways the group and the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce can work to find incentives to attract business to the county. The matter was previously discussed at a county commission work session. “They were open to us and the chamber, with [Robert Long, the chamber’s vice president of economic development] leading the charge, looking at our incentives and how we compare to other counties around us to see if maybe we need to increase our incentive pictures, to see what other counties do,” said David Seago, a member of the group. One potentially major incentive discussed in the meeting would be abatement of school taxes, which make up the majority of county taxes. Offsetting permit fees, impact fees and licensing costs were offered as potential incentives. “We’re not on a mission to increase our incentives,” the chamber’s Long said. “We want to find out what other people do and how we compare, and then at the end of the day, does it matter.” Member Tim Perry said the county needs to plan long-term for the abatements and consider benefits that might take a while. “It’s easy in a situation like that for commissioners to say no,” Perry said. “But the big picture, so what if you lose some impact fees or taxes for a couple years? What’s the long term effect? How many jobs is it going to generate? What about future taxes?” Long said he supported a plan that would allow incentives to be mixed-and-matched. “As an economic developer, you like to have tools in your tool box because every project is a little bit different,” he said. “Having an incentive opportunity or policy that allows you to customize your potential incentives to the specific needs of that project is nice.” No deadline was given for any incentive changes, which will come back to the authority before going to commissioners. During the meeting, Long also updated the group on the need for branding items and a new economic development website. The authority approved $3,000 for a new website and $1,000 for promotional items, including waterproof USB drives, pens and other items.