RINGGOLD, Ga. — The reality of a $1 billion VW assembly plant is driving officials in this small North Georgia county to consider buying and developing publicly owned industrial sites.
“The thing Catoosa doesn’t have right now is county-owned land to immediately start breaking ground to prepare something for VW,” incoming Catoosa County Commission Chairman Keith Greene said.
This fall, voters signaled their support by approving a 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax. And for the first time since Catoosa voters approved the first special purpose local option sales tax in 1994, officials have set aside $2 million of the revenue generated specifically to focus on economic development. Officials estimate that the SPLOST will generate about $56 million over the next four years. The collection cycle will begin in July 2009.
Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton
Chad Parker runs a machine boring a 700-foot hole for a new sewage line Thursday morning. Catoosa County has used a portion of its annual SPLOST tax to fund an expansion of the sewer system in areas bordering the cities. Construction workers have been boring a path for the new sewer lines about 250 feet under the ground to avoid a gas line.
The SPLOST revenue provides money for the county to build infrastructure, such as the sewers now being installed in the West Chickamauga Basin, that is necessary to attract new industry.
Mr. Greene and County Commissioner Ken Marks said they expect the SPLOST revenue will go to prepare sites to attract the businesses that will support the primary suppliers to the VW plant. Those primary businesses, or tier one suppliers, will need their own suppliers and manufacturers to help them serve the VW plant, scheduled to begin production in Chattanooga’s Enterprise South industrial park in 2011.
“The county does not really own any of its own property for that kind of project,” Mr. Marks said. “We could use some of this money to get sewers and develop property that businesses would want to come to.”
Mr. Greene said that other than the privately owned Rollins Industrial Park, there are no sites ready for immediate use.
“We have had predominantly residential growth,” he said. “We need to get some higher-paying jobs in here and continue to move forward.”
Voters must approve all special purpose sales taxes, which must be designated for specific items, generally capital projects such as sewers, roads, municipal buildings and recreation facilities.