UPDATED 6 a.m. Jan. 4: Updated throughout with comments from Al Nash of Progress Partners.
Businesses located within a specific area of Alpharetta that create at least two net new jobs may qualify for incentives under the city’s new Opportunity Zone. Alpharetta received notification from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs that the incentive program has been approved beginning Jan. 1.
“We began working on the creation of Opportunity Zones early in 2012, and are very excited that the State has now approved the first one,” said Peter Tokar, Alpharetta’s Economic Development director. “The work continues, however, on the second and largest of the zones we hope to create.”
The city's application for an Opportunity Zone to allow job creation incentives has the support of the business community.
"These opportunity zones have proven to be very beneficial as tools in the economic development toolbox," said Al Nash, head of Progress Partners, the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce's economic development arm.
"I would like to compliment the City of Alpharetta for their effort to make an application and get this from the Department of Community Affairs, because I think it is going to be very beneficial for helping to recruit some companies to the city," Nash said.
Chamber officials encouraged the city in its application for the Opportunity Zone
This temporary incentive won't cost Alpharetta taxpayers anything, nor will it directly cost the state as these would be new jobs that add taxes, but just at a reduced rate.
"The payday will be when we identify a company that will make that their home; that's the big story," Nash said.
The newly approved Opportunity Zone is concentrated on a small area located between Windward Parkway and Cumming Street, just west of Westside Parkway, according to a news release from the city. The area includes two commercial office buildings and a data center, with one building previously known as the "Nortel" building. The buildings have housed offices for Cingular, Bell South and then AT&T. Many of those jobs were consolidated in other offices in Metro Atlanta.
The second zone, which has not yet been approved by the State is proposed to cover much of the commercially zoned area of the city.
The incentive, which is available to new or existing businesses that create two or more jobs, is a jobs tax credit which can be taken against the business’s Georgia income tax liability and payroll withholding tax. The maximum job tax credit allowed under Georgia law is $3,500 per job created. To qualify for the jobs tax credit, businesses must be within the defined boundaries of Alpharetta’s new Opportunity Zone and the jobs must meet three criteria:
- Must be permanent, full-time jobs working a minimum of 35 hours per week;
- Must pay in excess of the lowest average wage of any county in the state;
- Must be offered health insurance upon employment, although the employer is not required to pay for such insurance.
There is no limit on the maximum number of jobs that may be claimed under the program, and the tax credit has a 10-year carry forward provision from the year in which the jobs are created.
“What makes this such a powerful tool is that the incentive is focused on the creation of jobs rather than the size of the business,” Tokar explained. “Whether you are a mom and pop shop or a Fortune 250 company, if you are located within the Opportunity Zone and create at least two qualifying jobs, you can take advantage of the incentive.”
Businesses seeking additional information on the Alpharetta Opportunity Zone should email Peter Tokar, the city’s Economic Development Director.