150 jobs created in opportunity zone

by Kristal Dixon
kdixon@cherokeetribune.com

May 02, 2012 12:00 AM


Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, speaks about the new jobs the opportunity zone would bring to the county in the near future.

CANTON — Those looking for work could now find it closer to home, because job creation has already started in Cherokee County’s newest opportunity zone.

About 150 new jobs have been created since Jan. 1 in the Technology Ridge area of Cherokee County, which was given the opportunity zone designation by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs last month.

Misti Martin, president of the Cherokee Office of Economic Development, said roughly 140 additional jobs are expected to be created over the next two years within the opportunity zone.

Martin announced the figures during a news conference Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) conducted on Tuesday at the Cherokee County Regional Airport.

“That’s just what we know of,” she told the crowd of about 30 business owners and local leaders in attendance at the news conference.

Companies that have added new positions include PlayNation with 10, FactoryMation with between 10 and 12, BEMD Co. with 10, Belnick, Inc., with 13, and Chart Industries with 51.

Martin said Belnick, owner of Bizchair.com, plans to add between 15 and 20 more jobs by the end of the year and BEMD expects to add 20 additional jobs by the close of 2012.

Canton-based Universal Alloy also plans to add 60 new jobs over the next two years, she said.

Rogers praised the county’s newest opportunity zone, which he said will help spur economic development in the northern end of the county.

“This is going to be an area of incredible activity,” he said.

Created in 2004, an opportunity zone is a state designation that allows local governments to provide tax incentives for economic development and revitalization of pockets of poverty.

Benefits include eligibility for a $3,500 tax credit for each new job created, the use of job tax credits against 100 percent of income tax liability and withholding taxes, and the expansion of the definition of business enterprise to include businesses of any kind.

The Technology Ridge area includes parcels west and south of the Interstate 575 interchange at Exit 20 along Old Highway 5, east of I-575 along old Highway 5 north to Ball Ground and the western side of I-575 around the Howell Bridge Road area.

The new zone includes parts of Canton-Cherokee Business & Industrial Park, RiverStone and Bluffs Development, some property around the Cherokee County Regional Airport and some property in the city limits of Ball Ground.

The new opportunity zone will include about 4,704 acres.

The designation will be valid through 2022 and if the zone is not renewed, the county will lose its designation.

Russ Sanders, president of FactoryMation, said the company is “bursting at the seams” at its current 30,000-square-foot building in The Bluffs at Technology Park, which is covered under the new opportunity zone.

He said the company plans to build between a facility between 60,000 and 65,000 square feet adjacent to his present building, which he said will help him add an additional 40 new employees.

Rogers said the new opportunity zone designation was also indicative of both the county and officials with the city of Canton and Ball Ground working together toward a common goal of utilizing tools for economic development.

Considering the zone’s close proximity to I-575, Rogers said it wouldn’t take long for companies to hear about the new designation.

“We’re going to make sure job creation happens,” he added.

Cherokee County Commissioner Jim Hubbard said the news of the opportunity zone designation and the new jobs slated to be created was a “wonderful thing.”

“This is an open invitation to come to Cherokee County,” he added.

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