(Editor’s note: The following letter to the editor was submitted by Derrick Smith, chair of the Development Authority of Bryan County; Jim Gardner, chair of the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce; and Sarah Williams, chair of the North Bryan County Chamber of Commerce.)
In the world of economic development, competition for projects is very fierce.
Economic development professionals must leverage all of their community’s available assets in order to convince companies that their community is the best place for a project. Unfortunately, an amazing quality of life is not always enough to cause a company to decide to call a community home; other incentives must be offered as well. The state of Georgia has a very robust set of incentives, as do local communities around the state. There is one area, however, in which Georgia is lacking. Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina have no property taxes on business inventory at all, and, in fact, Georgia is one of only 11 states in the country that charge a tax on business inventory.
That being said, the state of Georgia does allow individual communities to vote to exempt certain classes of business inventory. Any community that does not pass business inventory tax exemptions will be at a competitive disadvantage.
Fortunately, in addition to a great quality of life, Bryan County has a 100 percent Freeport exemption for three defined categories of business inventory. In the most recent legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 935 that was signed by Gov. Deal, which allows communities to vote to include a fourth category of Freeport: e-commerce in fulfillment centers. As we all know, online shopping is becoming more prevalent, and therefore, e-commerce fulfillment centers are being constructed all over the country. These facilities are typically significant employment centers.
The Freeport exemption for e-commerce is on the Nov. 8 ballot, and it is very important that it is passed. Otherwise, Bryan County may become a little less appealing to economic development projects that would bring jobs and investment to the county. Adding e-commerce to the categories of business inventory that already have a Freeport exemption would give the community another tool to help convince industrial projects to bring new jobs and investment to the county.
We strongly encourage the voters to vote yes for the Freeport ballot measure related to e-commerce, which can help create more jobs for Bryan County.