It’s known simply by the name “Project Snowflake.”
At least publicly, that is.
If officials with the industry choose Milledgeville and Baldwin County as a new development site, it could mean 400 new jobs to the local economy. Officials would also initially invest $65 million into the project.
Other than that information, very little is known about the project and that’s the way it must stay until officials are ready to disclose additional details, including the name of the prospective industry or what sort of work it involves.
That was some of the good news shared with members of The Development Authority of Milledgeville and Baldwin County (DAMBC) by Project Manager Hank Griffeth during Monday morning’s board meeting.
“My big news of the day is Project Snowflake,” Griffeth said. “When we met last month, I had only had a two-hour meeting with these people because they had come the Thursday before our meeting on Monday.”
Griffeth said things were moving “very quickly.”
“And I’m trying real hard not to get excited about it,” Griffeth said. “But based on communication with Kevin (Brown) and [DAMBC] chairman (Ed) Walker, I have sent the state an incentive package for Project Snowflake based on pre-approved abatement schedules.’’
State officials were expected to take their package to Gov. Brian Kemp Monday for his approval.
“That’s how quickly things are moving,” Griffeth said, noting he had not seen the state’s proposed package. “They preferred not to show it to me until the governor approved it. Provided the governor approves their package, it will be sent along with our local package.”
Griffeth said he expected to know whether or not the governor approved the state package by the end of the day Monday.
Such an answer still was not known as of press time Monday afternoon.
Griffeth said there had been a lot of phone communication with representatives of the industry.
“I know that they have hired two engineering firms to look at the property that they are considering,” Griffeth said. “So, they are moving pretty quickly. It will be a minimum of 400 jobs and a minimum of $65 million capital investment.”
The DAMBC project manager told board members that he will keep them all informed.
“I don’t think we’re at the point, quite yet, of where the location is or what they will be doing, but Project Snowflake is strong and moving forward quickly,” Griffeth said. “And I’m excited about it.”
He said company officials had been “very straightforward” in every conversation he had with them, whether in-person or by phone.
Local officials have not shared the actual name of the company or whether they are an American-based company or international.
Griffeth said he hopes to be able to provide DAMBC much more information about the prospective company by the May 20 scheduled board meeting.
In other business, two other projects, “Green” and “Julia,” were inactivated by DAMBC board members at Griffeth’s recommendation.
Griffeth recommended Project Julia be inactivated simply due to lack of activity.
“And let me very clear when I say inactivate, I don’t mean forget,” Griffeth said. “Nothing is really happening with them and I don’t know that I necessarily need to report on them every meeting unless something new happens with them.”
Recently, DAMBC board members requested that Griffeth set up a conference call with the state project manager and consultant for Project Green.
“I did that since our last board meeting, and the information shared from the consultant for Project Green was that they are still undecided, but they are now looking at additional sites, and based on that the state project manager shared with him that the state offer was no longer active,” Griffeth said. “And I feel like we need to do the same thing with our local offer.”
There was no opposition when DAMBC Chairman Ed Walker called for a vote to deem both projects inactive.
Griffeth also informed DAMBC board members about a new program recently launched by the federal government related to opportunity zones.
“The quickest explanation of it is if someone chooses to invest in one of those opportunity zones, and does not touch that investment for a period of 10 years, there’s no federal income tax for capital gains,” Griffeth said. “At least with the current … regulations that are governing it now, it is pretty wide open. I tell you about that because about close to 40 and 50 percent of our county is in a federal opportunity zone. And it might not be the areas you might think.”
Griffeth said the goal between now and the next board meeting on May 20 is to get some maps printed up highlighting where the federal opportunity zones are located in Baldwin County.
“We are one of only three counties in our economic development region that has federal opportunity zones,” Griffeth said, noting that Macon-Bibb and Pulaski are the other two counties.
He pointed out that officials with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) are doing some work to help market these.
Griffeth said he will attend another training session with DCA officials sometime in April in Statesboro.
“I think that maybe it’s something that we, as a development authority, need to look at and maybe see if we want somehow to work on some marketing of our own to make sure people are aware that that’s where they are,” Griffeth added. “The advantage, obviously, would be if a company wanted to come into our county and wanted to locate in one of those opportunity zones, they have the opportunity to find either capital investment on their own or we have the opportunity to help them find investment, and then that creates that tax exemption for those folks who put forth money for capital investment purposes.”
Griffeth called it an exciting time.
He explained that the state also has opportunity zones, but with the opportunity zones for the state, it’s really advantageous to the companies because they are based on the employees and state income tax, Griffeth said.
“With the federal opportunity zones, somebody who has absolutely nothing to do with the company other than being an investor can take advantage of that tax exemption status on that,” Griffeth said. “It’s kind of exciting times. I anticipate, based on what I’m hearing, that the legislation will probably be changed one more time before it gets done, but I don’t anticipate there will be any major changes in that. The other good piece about it is that it is self-certifying, so if an investment group says that they have invested a certain amount of dollars in a federal opportunities zone, the feds check out that census tract and it is in fact in that federal opportunities zone, then that’s all they have to meet to simply take advantage of it 10 years later.”