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Small businesses seeking incentive grants

by ERIN WILTGEN Thomasville Times

September 2010

In part because of new economic development guidelines catered to smaller companies, the Davidson County Economic Development Commission has noticed an increase in the number of small business endeavors approaching for incentive grants.

EDC Executive Director Steve Googe spoke on behalf of one of those companies, dubbed Project M, at the Davidson County Board of Commissioners meetings on July 1.

“I think we have for a long time put our eggs in a few baskets,” Googe said. “And the idea that our leadership has pursued is the approach that we would much prefer to have a lot of smaller companies.”

A manufacturing facility that supplies the construction industry, Project M would invest $2 million in plant machinery and equipment as well as create 15 jobs with a wage above the county average.

In return, Googe suggested the commissioners approve an incentive grant of .0027 times the company’s investment in real property each year for five years as well as a second grant of .0054 times the company’s investment in plant and machinery.

The total of the two grants would not exceed $6,000 a year.

Commissioners set a public hearing for Aug. 10 to discuss the incentive grant.

The drive to encourage small businesses to invest in Davidson County began about six months ago, spearheaded by Commissioner Sam Watford, Googe said. The county’s municipalities endorsed some new guidelines that addressed smaller projects and startups.

“This has caused us to have an influx of people that ordinarily would probably have never touched base with us before they started doing some sort of project,” Googe said. “I think this is just representative of that new set of guidelines to encourage smaller businesses.”

Googe says an increased emphasis on micro companies could help the county’s economy.

“If you read all of the information about economic development and growth, they’ll tell you that the bulk of the new jobs are going to come from small companies, and most of the Fortune 500 companies are actually downsizing,” he said.

While the county hasn’t turned its back on big businesses, commissioners and EDC staff have seen merits in opening up opportunities for smaller companies.

“We’ve given incentives to larger companies,” said Commissioner Chairman Max Walser. “But when things get as bad as they’ve been, we perhaps should not draw the line on larger companies. That’s why we’ve created these new guidelines. Anyone who wants to create jobs and spend $2 million on infrastructure we’re willing to support.”

Though 15 jobs may not sound like many by itself, the small number of jobs over a handful of small businesses eventually adds up.

“Any job creation we can have in Davidson County is important because of all the losses we’ve had,” Walser said. “If we can create 15 jobs, that’s well and good for our people because we have so many people out of work.”

Googe says that the company’s investment in the county will increase tax revenue as well as stimulate the economy. And eventually, Googe added, 15 jobs may turn into more.

“If you look at what we’ve been able to accomplish by dealing with these smaller companies, over a period of time the multiplier of those companies ends up creating thousands of jobs,” he said.

And on some level, any number of jobs will be a good thing for the people and the families who get them.

“I think we’ve made great progress,” Walser said. “We’re doing a good job of attracting industry and creating jobs. We’re not there yet, but I think real progress has been made.”


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