A new economic incentive for portions of Martinez could prove integral in making the area a hub of commercial activity once again.
The Development Authority of Columbia County received word in October that state tax credits will be offered to businesses that choose to locate along a commercial corridor off Bobby Jones Expressway and Washington Road where older, dilapidated buildings coexist with newer construction.
The tax breaks became available once the Georgia Department of Community Affairs designated the area a state opportunity zone, a process that took nearly two years to complete and required public meetings, creation of a redevelopment plan and approval by county commissioners.
“It was a long time coming, but we’re glad that it’s here now,” said county Administrator Scott Johnson.
The special designation, lasting for a decade, gives business owners relocating or expanding in the allotted zone tax credits of $3,500 for each job created, as long as at least two positions are developed.
The zone stretches from sections of Washington and Columbia roads starting near the Gerald Jones Honda dealership to Davis Road. It also expands onto Bobby Jones Expressway to the Richmond County line.
A state business tier system ranks Columbia County as economically affluent, which has limited its eligibility in the past for the tax incentives surrounding counties can take advantage of.
“We’re excited about the opportunity of zone creation because it kind of puts us on an even playing field,” Johnson said. “It gives us the opportunity to offer some job tax credits that otherwise Columbia County wouldn’t qualify for.”
In order to qualify for the designation, the proposed zone must meet a certain poverty threshold. Although the county property didn’t meet the criteria, it does abut a strip in Richmond County that did.
“We were able to find a way, even considering the relative affluence of our county, to create this tool,” Development Authority Executive Director Troy Post said.
The economic program was a joint effort between the development authority and county departments.