Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor signed off on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would allow Anheuser-Busch to pursue $150 million in bonds at a special-called public meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
“My understanding is that they’re actually going to be building some sort of new facility,” Cartersville Assistant City Attorney Keith Lovell said, “but the majority of the investment is going to be in equipment.”
Lovell said the expansion project is expected to add about 10-12 new jobs at the brewery in Cartersville.
“The big thing is they’re still committed to growing in the community,” Taylor said.
Lovell told The Daily Tribune News the proposed project will be offered “the standard abatement package” — a 10-year, phased-in abatement on real property taxes and a five-year, phased-in abatement on personal property taxes.
Taylor noted that the bond resolution would entail no public money.
“These bonds don’t really have anything to do with the municipal bond market,” Lovell said. “They will be bought, more than likely, in-house by the company … these aren’t the types of bonds that normally go out on the market for sale.”
Furthermore, Lovell said the resolution itself explicitly notes that neither the City or the County would acquire any general obligation debt as part of the agreement.
Taylor said Anheuser-Busch provides among the highest salaries of any employer throughout the community.
“I don’t know if I can think of anybody that pays a higher hourly average wage,” he said.
Anheuser-Busch’s larger than anticipated investment in the local community, Taylor said, bodes well for the County’s post-COVID economic outlook.
“Bartow County is really sitting in a really good spot as far as projects go right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of companies looking at Bartow — as evidenced by the companies that we’ve been attracting lately.”
Taylor also briefly touched upon Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to reallocate $1.5 billion in Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) dollars to the State’s unemployment insurance trust fund.
“Without the transfer of funds, the State will have to increase unemployment tax rates for employers between 300% and 400% to make headway on paying the loan,” Georgia Department of Labor Commissioner Mark Butler is quoted in an Oct. 14 press release. “This reallocation of federal funds will allow more employers across the state to focus on the growth and success of their businesses without having the additional pressure of a rising unemployment tax.”
That federal funding procured via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was initially intended to be disbursed to local governments throughout Georgia in several phases.
“I think cities and counties all across the state were looking for a larger share of the CARES funding,” Taylor said. “But I personally understand why the governor did that, because he’s shoring up the State’s unemployment fund … of course, the State was going to have to borrow money and they still may, I’m not sure about that.”
Taylor said that no additional CARES Act funding was earmarked on the County level beyond the first phase of disbursements.
“I kind of suspected this might happen when the State only gave us 30% on that first phase and they said ‘two more phases are coming behind this,’” he said. “If they fully made up their mind to give us all of it, I think that we would’ve got 100% of it upfront and we would’ve been done with it.”
Had the County received the additional funding, Taylor said the local government most likely would’ve distributed the funds to nonprofit organizations, citing United Way and Advocates for Children by name as possible beneficiaries.
“Unfortunately, for the City and the County, we didn’t get it,” he said, “so now we won’t have the problem to figure out how to disburse the funds.”