JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Johns Creek Advantage – the public-private economic development organization for the city – wants another lure for its development tackle box. The JCA wants the City Council to create a Johns Creek Development Authority that would help attract new businesses giving selected projects preferred financing.
KeyWorth Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Neil Stevens chairs the JCA Board of Directors and has written a letter on behalf of JCA to the mayor requesting he and the City Council look into creating a development authority for Johns Creek.
“Any city can activate a development authority, but it has to be activated by its city council,” Stevens said.
That board will be appointed by the council, but then it will have authority to act as an independent body.
It is one of a “bundle of things” the JCA is asking the council to look at, Stevens said, and it may be anywhere from a month to three months getting everything JCA wants before council.
“We feel like to be competitive in economic development, this is something that is essential,” Stevens said. “And our neighbors already have it.”
That includes Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Alpharetta, Roswell, Milton, Suwanee, Duluth and Sandy Springs, among other communities.
The usual goals of such an authority are to:
• Increase the number and the quality of jobs in the community,
• Increase the per capita incomes through new payrolls generated,
• Increase taxable development, which creates larger and more diversified revenue streams for the government.
The chief advantage of a development authority is that it can assist a community in economic development.
The city under state law has the ability to activate through the powers invested in the City Council. It then would appoint a board, normally made up of developers, real estate brokers, bankers, finance and business people who live in the bounds of the city.
The authority may own property (such as with a water authority) and it may use its powers such as a bonding authority to give incentives to development considered to be positive for the community.
Mayor Mike Bodker said he is looking forward to the JCA’s presentation. However, that is just one of several initiatives for economic development he would like the City Council to consider.
“I plan to outline to the council all the tools needed in the economic development tool belt. That will include explanations and definitions so that we all will understand how they are enacted and what they will accomplish,” Bodker said.
He will also call for recommendations from city staff. At a point when council agrees to what steps to take moving forward, Bodker said he plans to get the top priorities implemented as soon as possible.
“I want us to act holistically, with an understanding of where we are headed. I don’t want to take a shotgun approach. I expect the development authority will be among those initiatives,” Bodker said.
What is a development authority?
In Georgia, a development authority is a public entity created by state law. There may be several types, but that is spelled out by the city or county that “activates” them. Examples of the types of authorities include airport, building, housing, public transit, solid waste or water authorities.
Once activated, it is empowered to oversee specific projects or carry out missions that are in the public interest. As a public body, an authority is subject to transparency laws such as open records and open meetings. Its members are subject to ethics statutes.
One of the important powers a development authority has is to issue revenue bonds to raise money for projects that are deemed in the public interest. The bond money is funded by the state for economic development. Unless otherwise specified, the bond dollars are “passed through” the development authority, which is not liable for repayment; the developer is.
The incentive is to get these funds at below-market rates.