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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.

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