A newly opened boating and retail store in Columbia County will receive a taxpayer-funded economic grant for road improvements at its new location.
Tuesday, county commissioners approved a $2,000 economic incentive award for Augusta Marine to help with construction costs of a deceleration lane in front of the business on Belair Frontage Road.
"They're having to widen part of Frontage Road to allow traffic to turn in and out of their business," said county Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson. "It's just a small contribution to that portion of their project."
The economic incentive policy was adopted about a year ago as a way to attract retail businesses to the county, Johnson said. The incentives are allocated only for infrastructure projects.
Augusta Marine opened about a month ago at 4250 Belair Frontage Road, and the deceleration lane was installed a few months ago, said David Whyte, owner of the marine store.
"They just said that because I was bringing new business and employees to Columbia County that there's a chance I get some incentive money," Whyte said. "It was nice."
Whyte moved the store from Gordon Highway to Columbia County in part to increase visibility. The old location in Augusta is now occupied by Lord's Collision Center.
Since the move, Whyte said he's seen his fair share of new customers inside the 33,600-square-foot building.
"Making that huge change to come over here, that's a big deal," Whyte said. "Belair Frontage Road is a very busy road, plus you have the (Interstate 20) traffic."
Before the economic incentive policy's formal induction, the county gave a similar grant to the Walmart near Grovetown, Johnson said.
"Since then, we've had several people apply, but it's based on a lot of criteria that we take into account when we're doing these types of things," he said. "Really, nobody else has qualified."
In January 2009, a $600,000 economic incentive was offered to Collett & Associates for intersection improvements of the second proposed phase for Mullins Crossing in Evans.
After nearly a year of inactivity at the development, commissioners retracted the incentive in November. Plans for the shopping center since have been put on hold.
When deciding upon a business to receive the grant, Johnson said several criteria are evaluated to determine the amount of money generated for the county. The maximum incentive amount a business can receive is then calculated.
"One of the biggest drivers for us is sales tax generated," Johnson said. "Anytime we can increase sales tax in the county, that gives us the potential to lower property taxes."
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