Thyssenkrupp Elevators, a German company, was among the businesses to receive incentives from Cobb County last year. Commissioners added five mroe to that list Tuesday. (Rendering provided by thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation)

Cobb approves $500,000 in incentives, but not without pushback

The Cobb County Commission approved five incentive packages for businesses Tuesday, relinquishing more than $500,000 in construction permitting and business license fees.

Home Depot and Floor & Decor were both unanimously approved for incentives, which county staff and several members of the board said were necessary to lure or retain businesses that have the option to go elsewhere.

“There is competition for jobs and investment throughout the United States,” said Dana Johnson of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, formerly the county’s head of community development. He warned of “lost business opportunities” if the incentives were not approved.

The vote was split on several of the more controversial projects, with commissioners and some residents expressing concern over the appropriateness of the incentives and their negative impact to the county’s bottom line. Several of the companies have already received tax abatements from the Cobb Development Authority and the state.

Commissioner Lisa Cupid said that it was hard to reconcile rosy projections about the benefits of economic incentives with the county’s ongoing budget struggles. Just before the vote, commissioners heard from two representatives of the Cobb police who warned that low pay and poor benefits were hurting the department.

“We’ve got to see proof” that incentives work, said Cupid. “Providing incentives is not a core function of what we do as a government.”

J.C. Bradbury, an economist at Kennesaw State University, said research shows incentives typically don’t generate the predicted return.

“These numbers that are being generated behind the scenes are technically wild guesses,” he said, referring to the county’s analyses showing each of the projects would break even within a few years. “I don’t have much confidence in them.”

The vote breakdown was as follows:

Edison Chastain Office, LLC, won $124,931 worth of incentives to build a three-story office rental building on Chastain Meadows Parkway. The vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Keli Gambrill in opposition.

“We keep saying there’s a break-even on incentives, however this is a fee that we are waiving,” Gambrill said. “We will never recoup this fee if we allow this organization to not pay it at this time.”

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the district where the new office complex is located, said the project meets the requirements unanimously adopted by the board a year ago.

“It will pay for itself within three years,” she said. “We’re missing the whole picture of what it’s going to bring in the long run.”

Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, a construction firm, received $90,798 worth of incentives for the renovation of its existing office on Circle 75 Parkway in the Cumberland area. It passed 3-2 with Gambrill in opposition and Cupid abstaining after she clashed with Chairman Mike Boyce over her questions to county staff.

Floor & Decor won unanimous approval for $90,798 in incentives to relocate from Smyrna to Windy Ridge Parkway in East Cobb.

The Home Depot won unanimous approval for$213,750 in incentives to lease two existing office buildings on Interstate North Parkway in East Cobb.

BioIQ, a health technology company, received $85,830 in incentives after a 4-1 vote with Commission Cupid in opposition.

“I have problems with us limiting money toward our general fund that could come from the business license fees,” Cupid said.

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