Gov. Nathan Deal signs tax break to promote yacht repairs in Georgia

(Henrik Fisker)

(Henrik Fisker)

Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday signed a sales tax break for owners of giant yachts who get their vessels repaired or retrofitted in Georgia.

House Bill 125 was pushed by state Rep. Ron Stephens, R-Savannah, who said it would spur the creation of a big-boat repair business in his part of the state.

Stephens said the owner of the Savannah Yachting Center — Colonial Group — is planning to invest $50 million to $60 million into the big-boat business and is promising to create hundreds of jobs.

Colonial Group operates a collection of shipping, oil and gas businesses, including Enmark gas and convenience stores. Forbes magazine last year ranked it the 146th-largest private company in the country, with $3 billion in revenue the previous year.

The company and its president, Robert Demere, have been active in state politics, donating more than $33,000 to the campaigns of lawmakers over the past two years.

Demere has donated $6,500 to the campaigns of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Senate’s president. Cagle’s former chief of staff, Brad Alexander, was part of the lobbying team pushing the tax break.

The tax break only applies after yacht owners have spent more than $35,000 in sales taxes on “tangible property,” such as parts, to retrofit, repair or maintain their vessels. Lawmakers said it would help Georgia compete with giant yacht repair businesses in Florida.