The fight among states for economic development projects is not for the faint of heart and frequently is a no-holds-barred affair. Every time a community loses a project to another state, they are sure that Georgia is not doing enough or they would not have lost the project. Sometimes one state or community just wants it more or the project is playing off one side to get a better deal where they were going all along.
Overall, Georgia has been successful and in previous columns we have looked at some of the inherent advantages the state enjoys in transportation, the Atlanta Airport and Georgia’s ports.
This week we look at the structure that is set up to address individual projects and spends the resources pledged for those purposes.
The OneGeorgia Authority, administered by the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), was created to foster additional investment and growth in the rural areas of the state. OneGeorgia provides funding support to cities, counties, and other government and multi-jurisdictional authorities for projects that create jobs for rural Georgia. Eligible counties and cities must be located outside of a metropolitan area, have total populations of less than 50,000, and a poverty rate of 10 percent or greater.
The OneGeorgia Authority currently administers three grant and loan programs. The Entrepreneur and Small Business Development Loan Guarantee (ESB) Fund is a partnership with accredited financial institutions in eligible areas to provide start-up entrepreneurs and small business owners access to loans ranging from $35,000 to $250,000 at competitive rates. The Economic Development, Growth, and Expansion (EDGE) Fund provides “deal closing” funding to rural Georgia communities competing with other communities out of state for business location or expansion projects. Also, the Equity Fund provides financial assistance to eligible rural communities for building the infrastructure necessary for economic development. Infrastructure projects may include new or improvements to existing water, sewer, and drainage projects, transportation infrastructure, roadway lighting and enhancements, and site preparation.
In the FY2014 general budget, OneGeorgia received $20 million in state general funds for economic development assistance to rural counties. This is an increase over the prior year and reflects the state’s ongoing commitment to rural economic development in the face of other budgetary challenges. In FY2012, the OneGeorgia Authority leveraged $33 in private investment for every $1 in public grants or loans and generated or retained over 3,400 Georgia jobs.
Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) program
DCA provides additional assistance with grants from the Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) program. Like OneGeorgia’s EDGE program, REBA grants provide “deal closing” funds for projects that will have a significant economic impact on a community. Georgia businesses and communities compete for private investment with the help of their local development authorities, but may require additional capital to edge out competitors in other states or in foreign countries. Local development authorities must apply for REBA funds and an application must be sponsored by a state agency, such as the Department of Economic Development or the Department of Agriculture.
REBA grant recipients must demonstrate a viable community or economic development project and clearly identify the use of the funding. REBA grants are limited to a maximum amount of $750,000 per project and DCA may place special restrictions on the use of funds. Stipulations may include performance measures such as the number of jobs created and the cost for each or minimum private investment requirements. It should also be noted that REBA grants are competitive. When reviewing the merits of project applications, economic feasibility, project readiness, the degree of local and private commitment, and the economic impact of a project are all factors in determining which projects receive assistance funding. Unlike OneGeorgia, REBA funds may be used anywhere in the state to secure projects of significant economic impact for Georgia.
In fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the Department of Community Affairs, through REBA and other programs, provided $118.2 million in grants and loans to local governments and businesses for economic development, attracting over $7.3 billion in private investment — or $62 per public dollar invested. Funding for REBA decreased to pre-recession levels in the FY2014 general budget as one-time funding from mortgage settlement funds was removed. However, as the state works through this recovery, REBA remains a vital tool in closing the deals that bring investment and jobs to Georgia.
For information and inquiries about OneGeorgia, visit its Web site at www.onegeorgia.org/.
For information on REBA, visit the Department of Community Affairs Web site —www.dca.ga.gov/economic/financing/programs/reba.asp.
Both web sites include application forms and information on eligibility and requirements.
I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7094 (fax)
E-mail at Jack.Hill@senate.ga.gov
Or call toll-free at
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Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811