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January 13, 2014

Whitfield moves to lower economic tier

The good news is that firms that create new jobs in Whitfield County this year will get a larger tax credit. The bad news is that they’ll get that credit because the county’s economic performance has lagged.

Each year, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs ranks all of the state’s counties into four tiers based on factors such as the unemployment rate, per capita income and the percentage of residents living below the poverty line. Tier 1 counties have the worst scores on those measures. Tier 4 have the best.

In the latest rankings, the state moved Whitfield County from Tier 2, where it has been for several years, to Tier 1.

“The bad news is that this shows just how bad the economy is in this part of the state,” said Whitfield County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Babb. “The good news is that it increases the job tax credit, which gives companies an incentive to expand or locate here. I’d rather the economy be expanding on its own. But at least this new ranking gives us some tools to turn things around.”

Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said the move to Tier 1 gives firms that create jobs in Whitfield County an increased incentive.

When Whitfield County was in Tier 2, a company that created 10 or more new jobs got a $3,000 credit per job that could be applied to its corporate income tax. In Tier 1, a company can now get a $4,000 per job credit when it creates two or more jobs. And the company can apply up to $3,500 of that credit against its payroll withholding tax.

Anderson said that while he’d prefer the county to be performing well enough economically to be in a better tier, the extra tax credit will make it easier to recruit companies.

“We’ll be the only Tier 1 county north of Atlanta on I-75. This should help us in 2014,” he said.

But Anderson said he expects Whitfield County to move out of Tier 1 after 2014 as many of the new jobs announced in 2013 start up. Companies such as Engineered Floors, Shaw Industries and Mohawk Industries announced expansions they say will create around 2,600 jobs over the next five years.

Whitfield County joined Murray County in Tier 1. Murray has been in that tier for several years.

“I’m not surprised we are still in Tier 1,” said Murray Sole Commissioner Brittany Pittman. “But we will use this to our competitive advantage. For both new companies and for our existing manufacturing companies, it would be beneficial to them if they are creating new jobs to create them in Murray County.”

Among neighboring counties, Walker and Catoosa are in Tier 3, and Gordon, Fannin and Gilmer are in Tier 2.

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