MACON, Ga. — When the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority and its partners toasted the success of 2022, they let the cocktail coasters tell the story.
Imprinted on the promotional circles of cork were accomplishments such as “660 jobs created in 2022,” and “61 years of #MaconOpportunities.”
The authority, which was created in 1962, marked its 60th anniversary during a celebration Dec. 12 at the Fall Line Brewing Co.
Authority Executive Director Stephen Adams pointed out that not only did the community welcome new industries such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Regional Jet, Agile Cold Storage and Bright Farms, but a number of existing industries chose to expand operations, such as Coca-Cola, YKK AP, and Nichiha, which resulted in the retention of another 525 jobs, according to the authority.
“There is no better validation about the direction of your community than when existing industries – existing industries that could make investments anywhere in the world – choose Macon-Bibb County to reinvest,” Adams said. “It means more jobs, but it also means a lower tax burden on those of us that are already here.”
In 2022, the industrial authority collected more than $3 million to give back to the county and school board from Payment In Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT programs that provide an incentive for recruiting new industry by deferring tax payments. Generally speaking, the authority abates property taxes for about 10 years as a company is making an initial investment in the community and growing its business. The authority collects PILOT payments from the companies, which typically are split three ways among the authority, Macon-Bibb County and the Bibb County School System, Adams said
In the past five years, that dollar amount of PILOT payments increased 519 percent for Macon-Bibb County and 465 percent for the Bibb County School System, according to the party coasters with information provided by the authority.
“Not only do we bring good paying jobs to our community, but our tax digest also grows and this means more money in the pockets to our citizens, and more money to support education,” said authority Chairman Robby Fountain.
School Superintendent Dan Sims, in his first year on the job, accepted the school system’s check for more than $1.6 million dollars.
“If my impression – and the impact on me this city has had – is anything like the impression that potential industry has, I see why you’re so successful, and it means a lot to be a part of what I consider to be an amazing thing that’s happening right now,” Sims said.
Sims said he mentions the industrial authority in meetings with parents because of the importance of preparing students for the career opportunities available to them here at home.
Mayor Lester Miller picked up the $1.5 million check for the county’s portion of the PILOT funds.
“I’ll tell you back before 2017, our community and this industrial authority was in a very dark place. And but for the good hard work by many of these board members, including Robby Fountain, we would not be where we are today,” Miller said.
The mayor said that providing good jobs can be a factor in reducing violence and crime.
“What better way to lift someone out of poverty than to give them a job and a skill set to work with so they can go to work to support their families?” Miller asked.
In 2023, county officials will begin major upgrades at Middle Georgia Regional Airport that will include the coveted runway extension that will enable bigger jets to fly in and out of Macon.
Although county leaders eventually rejected the Brightmark plastics recycling plant project initially planned for the airport industrial park, work acquiring and studying that land could give Macon-Bibb a head start in recruiting another industry for that property off Walden Road.
Under the Georgia Ready for Accelerated Development, or GRAD program, MBCIA also certified the Airport East Industrial Park and the Interstate 75 Business Park which signals to investors that a property is ready for development so that projects can be fast-tracked.
Fountain said he had asked for a study that shows the percentage of industrial properties on the tax rolls in Georgia cities. He found Columbus and Augusta at about 13-14 percent and Athens at 6.5 percent, but Macon-Bibb’s percentage comes in at 27.5 percent up for 13 percent in 2017.
“That’s strong guys. That’s strong,” Fountain said.
– Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at email@example.com or 478-301-2976.