What is the real benefit of Economic Development?
For the past 2 decades,
the taxpayers have funded Economic Development in Jasper County.
Over this period of time,
the taxpayers have put
in around $1 million toward Economic Development. We’ve had
basically the same people serving on our Economic Development boards
all this time—the bankers and real estate agents.
The money the taxpayers
have put toward Economic Development has mostly gone for salaries of
the director. His only job was to find new businesses/industry for
Jasper County. We’ve had Winston Oxford, Mr. Harrison, Stone
Workman, and maybe one or two others. We now have another new
Economic Development director. She does not live in Jasper
County, but she has a vision for Jasper County and those who
don’t agree with it are “negative” and need to “get over it.” The
vision has come from the “Team Jasper” leaders. These leaders again
are the bankers, real estate agents, and the basic power structure
of Jasper County—the ones that stand to benefit the most from any
development we have.
Everyone has heard over
the past 15 years that we are being “interviewed” by some company
(usually 2 or 3) and they are going to bring us jobs (usually 100).
We’ve heard this over and over. The problem is it doesn’t
happen, but the reason we are told is because we don’t spend enough
money. The new idea now is that you have to have at least 50
acres of land to even entice a company to set up shop here. We’re
supposed to vote for the SPLOST to give Economic Development another
$500,000 for the City and a little less than $200,000 for the
County. We are told this is to buy land. Where will that land
be? Who will it be bought from? Of course, none of this can be
revealed and will be kept secret until the deal is “done.” We’ll
find out about it right before the vote. Then we’re going to see
all this new industry flock to Jasper County.
We are told the other
reason for Economic Development is to improve our tax base.
This reasoning goes in a big circle. It has already happened in all
the surrounding counties, and it will happen here. The circle
starts with our taxes being too high. So we need industry to help
our tax base. We run water lines and sewer (weren’t we told that’s
why we have to have them, for industry?)—they are costly. Industry
comes; it brings more trucks so we need more road improvements. It
brings more people so we need more fire, police, and schools. The
county must provide these things. They cost lots of money. Our
taxes go up and we’re right back at the beginning of the circle.
Our taxes are too high.
Ask anyone in
Newton, Henry, or Rockdale County how much industry saved them on
their taxes. They’ll ask you what you’re talking about
because their taxes have NOT gone down. Then ask people why they
moved to Jasper County. They will tell you the reason is to get
away from it all—all the traffic, all the people, all the taxes--and
live in a quiet, peaceful place like Jasper County. I’m sorry if
that’s being negative and not getting “with it” and living in the
past, but the truth is, our tax base will not be lowered by
having industry. But as long as we’re told someone is coming
and bringing jobs, the taxpayers will continue to put $60,000 -
$70,000 a year into Economic Development to provide a job for
someone who is “looking for industry to locate in Jasper County.”
There are 158 other
counties in Georgia also looking to entice industry. Jasper
County sits in a great position to promote Agri-Tourism,
though. We have a large lake which offers boating, fishing, and
swimming; a National Forest which offers birding, hiking, horseback
riding, and camping; Charlie Elliot Wildlife area; and lots of
historic homes. By promoting tourism, we benefit from the dollars
people spend here without it costing the taxpayers more in
infrastructure costs. This is where Economic Development
should focus. Agri-Tourism is what will lower our tax
base; not another industrial park.