Source: NorthFulton.com

Johns Creek Advantage: City unveils strategic growth plan
Public-private partnership targets economic growth

by Hatcher Hurd

May 14, 2013

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – More than 100 business leaders gathered May 7 at the Atlanta Athletic Club for the long-awaited roll-out of Johns Creek Advantage, the partnership of the business community and the City Council to accelerate economic growth in Johns Creek.

People may ask why such a thriving young city needs economic stimulus. A recent report noted that Johns Creek has the 11th highest per capita income in the nation and is the only city in Georgia where more than 50 percent of households have an income greater than $100,000.

The answer is to keep Johns Creek a sustainable, viable city of the first order, it needs a stronger more diverse economic engine that will generate jobs, payrolls and taxes that will take the burden off residential property taxes to maintain and expand city infrastructure.

Eighteen months ago, the City Council, the Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce and many of the leading employers in the city began drawing up the strategy to create a first-class 501(c)(3) economic development corporation that will proactively recruit targeted industries to come to Johns Creek on the one hand, and on the other hand to provide necessary support and guidance to retain existing businesses in the city.

Johns Creek Advantage is the corporate engine that will be staffed with economic development professionals, but it will take seed money to make it work. The initial capital campaign was announced as $1.25 million with a “stretch goal” of $1.5 million.

The city has stepped up with a $100,000 contribution matched by Emory Johns Creek Hospital.

Other top contributors of $50,000 or more include Gwinnett Medical Center – Duluth, Northside Hospital and Technology Park Atlanta with some 30 other businesses also contributing already.

The Tuesday event was to announce the kickoff of the final capital campaign and give investors a progress report on Johns Creek Advantage.

Those businesses that have already invested were pleased to know that the campaign kicks off with a robust $1.05 million, or 74 percent of the “stretch goal.” The idea is to give Johns Creek Advantage a working annual budget of $300,000 for the next three years.

“Our mission is to proactively drive business and job growth into Johns Creek,” said Neil Stevens, COO of Keyworth Bank and a campaign co-chairman.

The immediate goal is to create 400 premium jobs in the city, jobs that pay $85,000 annually or more. According to the economic impact analysis prepared by the Enterprise Innovation Institute at Georgia Tech, these combined salaries have the effect of driving and supporting another 205 jobs – a ripple effect in the community that brings $46 million into the community.

So for every two premium jobs recruited, another job is created out of the buying power. Once all of the jobs are created, they will generate $1.2 million in sales tax.

The target growth in three years is $12 million in new capital investment. This adds a taxable $4.8 million in property tax generating an additional $22,000 in tax revenue annually. Diversifying and expanding the tax base eases the residents’ tax burden.

“Today, the city’s tax base is about 15 percent commercial and 85 percent residential. If we could shift that 10 percent – a very realistic goal – to a 25 percent residential proportion, that would be a huge benefit to residents,” Stevens said.

Johns Creek Advantage is needed because economic development is a “highly competitive process,” said Stevens. Communities and regions – with state support also – are out there with similarly aggressive multi-year plans to gain a competitive edge for quality development.

Johns Creek has a lot going for it already.

• It has an affluent population already in place that is itself is an attraction. Success breeds success.

• Top drawer schools are another hugely important asset already in place. No corporate re-locator will overlook high quality education students in Johns Creek receive.

• There is an abundant selection of executive housing in such communities as Country Club of the South, St. Ives, St. Marlo and others.

• Public safety operations are high caliber. Crime is minimal.

• Healthcare is provided by new and competitive hospitals staffed with the finest health professionals.

Johns Creek Advantage’s job will be to aggressively market these assets to target corporate headquarters, medical/healthcare-related operations and professional services to name three areas they deem a fit for the city.

“Johns Creek Advantage is the greatest single defining initiative we can take toward ensuring Johns Creek remains on course for long-term financial success,” said Mayor Mike Bodker. “There are many great businesses out there that want to come to Johns Creek; they just don’t know it yet.”

It also means Johns Creek will be a major player in the “economic development game,” competing not just regionally but nationally.