Source: NorthFulton.com

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HP, General Motors beef up: Fortune 500 companies smile on North Fulton
Roswell, Alpharetta getting hundreds of jobs through creation of opportunity zones

by JONATHAN COPSEY

January 16, 2013

General Motors recently announced it would create 1,000 new jobs in Roswell. The news was big enough that Gov. Nathan Deal held a press conference about it. From left are Roswell Business Alliance President Steve Stroud, Councilmember Rich Dippolito, Mayor Jere Wood, Councilmember Becky Wynn, Deal and Councilmembers Betty Price, Nancy Diamond and Jerry Orlans.
NORTH FULTON, Ga. 2013 is shaping up to be a banner year for Roswell and Alpharetta in terms of economic development with the announcement by two Fortune 500 companies to bring jobs here. Hewlett Packard, the computer maker, announced Jan. 7 they were moving a call center to Alpharetta and bringing with it 200 new jobs.

Roswell also had huge news in the form of General Motors' announcement of plans to open a $26 million technology research center near Mansell Road, complete with 1,000 new jobs.

HP already employs more than 800 people on Westside Parkway in Alpharetta. These 200 new jobs will come largely from a similar facility in New Mexico.

As part of a restructuring plan, HP plans to consolidate its "Customer Solution Centers" from around the world in Alpharetta.

GM has purchased a 228,000-square-foot former UPS facility on Warsaw Road in Roswell for its "Innovation Center," hoping to strengthen its internal technology innovation capabilities. The information technology research center will create proprietary technology for its GM cars and trucks and improve delivery of innovation. Most of GM's IT functions have been outsourced during the past three decades.

"Locating this innovation center in Atlanta makes good business sense because we can draw from a deep pool of local talent," said GM Chief Information Officer Randy Mott. "These innovation centers will design and deliver IT that drives down the cost of ongoing operations while continuously increasing the level and speed at which innovative products and services are available to our GM customers."

Meanwhile, requests for employment opportunities have come in from as far away as California and Virginia.

These moves are likely just the tip of the economic iceberg for Alpharetta and Roswell, since they both are recipients of the "opportunity zone" incentive program offered by the state, said Roswell Business Alliance Executive Director Steve Stroud.

"There is a lot of activity in North Fulton. GM was one of two businesses showing interest in the UPS building. The other candidate is still looking in this area," Stroud said.

Asked if he could talk about other candidates looking at parts of North Fulton, Stroud said confidentiality requirements prevent that.

"But I can tell you there is no shortage of leads right now," Stroud said.

Opportunity zones are clearly defined areas that offer tax incentives in the form of a $3,500 tax credit for each full-time job created. The tax credit applies every year for five years.

"If a company creates 150 jobs, it equals a $2.6 million incentive over five years," said Alpharetta Economic Development Director Peter Tokar. "That's a pretty handsome incentive."

For GM, the tax break means $3.5 million for five years, or $17.5 million in its new facility.

The state is in charge of granting opportunity zones and looks at each request on a parcel-by-parcel basis. But the cities and counties have to request them.

Opportunity zones were created to spur economic growth in blighted areas, however cities such as Roswell and Alpharetta have used them to remain competitive in the regional and national business markets.

"It also keeps us competitive with other cities with opportunity zones," said Tokar. "If our neighbors have it and we don't, that's one more leg up on us that they have."

Alpharetta has applied to have much of its Ga. 400 property designated for the tax credits, and the first of these zones to be approved was a seven-acre tract near the corner of Windward Parkway and Westside Parkway. This was approved Jan. 1.

Roswell's opportunity zone has been in place since 2010 and includes much of Holcomb Bridge Road/ Crossville Road, Ga. 9 and Mansell Road. The GM facility was only recently added to the opportunity zone list as a final "sweetener" to the deal.

It evidently was enough to push GM over other national candidates along the Eastern seaboard.

Hatcher Hurd contributed to this article.