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Grady County in 2020 is no longer considered a Tier 1 county, the least developed and most economically challenged counties of the state, by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
Members of the Grady County Joint Development Authority learned this news at their monthly meeting Tuesday.
According to the DCA, Grady County’s unemployment rate has dropped, per capita income has improved and percentage of residents whose incomes are below the poverty level has decreased resulting in the county moving up to a Tier 2 county along with 34 other Georgia counties including, Thomas, Colquitt, Lowndes and Seminole among others.
Early, Decatur, Mitchell and Brooks counties remain in Tier 1 while Miller County is rated a Tier 3 county, a step above Grady.
While this is positive news, J.D.A. Executive Director Julian Brown also noted that as a Tier 2 county, local employers are not eligible for job tax credits as lucrative as Tier 1 counties for the number of new jobs created.
“This really caught me off guard,” Brown told the authority concerning Grady moving up into Tier 2.
Until March 1, local employers who are planning to expand employment may execute a notice of intent, which would entitle the employer to the tax credits for every two new jobs created, like Tier 1 counties, for a period of up to three years. As a Tier 2 county, employers must create 10 new jobs in order to receive tax credits.
“I’m encouraging businesses to sign the notice of intent whether they have plans to expand or not. It could save them a lot of money if they do create new jobs,” Brown said.
J.D.A. Vice Chairman Robbie Burns asked what specifically had changed to trigger this improvement in the county’s tier rating. Brown said he was not certain, but he said the Nivel project and the subsequent increase in jobs likely played a factor.
In other business Tuesday, the authority:
‰Heard a report from Brown that the dock leveler pit projects at Heritage Industrial Complex to benefit tenant Big Bend Agri-Services had been completed.
‰Received an update on the speculative building project from Brown who reported that the authority should know by next month how much the state will provide in funding for the project. J.D.A. Chairman Charles M. Stafford also asked Grady E.M.C. President & General Manager Joe Pandy, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, if Grady E.M.C. would be willing to assist the authority with the spec. building financing as had been done on a previous project. According to Stafford, in the past Grady E.M.C. had assisted the authority by applying for a Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant or REDLG. The program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. Local utilities, such as Grady E.M.C., can apply to the U.S.D.A. for funding support on behalf of specified local projects and the loans are up to $2 million at 10 years with 0 percent interest. Pandy agreed it was something he believed the Grady E.M.C. board would consider. Stafford’s thought was REDLG might be used to help finance the construction of the new spec. building.
‰Heard comments from Grady E.M.C.’s Pandy concerning the co-ops willingness to explore partnerships to encourage high speed broadband to be offered to areas of the E.M.C.’s service area outside of the municipalities, which already offer this service. The Grady E.M.C. chief said the co-op was not in a position to take on such a project on its own, but would be interested in evaluating a partnership with others such as the City of Cairo and the J.D.A. if federal grants could be tapped to cover the bulk of the project expense.
‰Welcomed Mary Jane Stanley and Phillip Phillips, members of the International Economic Development Council who are here in Grady County volunteering to conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the community. Stanley has 35 years of experience in development and Phillips has 42 years experience. According to Ms. Stanley, the duo has scheduled 18-20 interviews in the community as part of this project. “We are here to obtain information, share ideas and offer things to consider,” she said. Phillips said, “We can bring experience from elsewhere and offer thoughts we might have as professionals and outsiders.”
‰Met with new Archway Professional Whitney Brannen who recently began work here.