Newton Chamber chairman says county manager needs experience in growth-related services

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COVINGTON, Georgia. –A senior Chamber of Commerce official said Newton’s board of directors can help ensure the economic development of the business community remains a priority by hiring a county manager with experience in the services required by growth.

Hunter Hall, chairman of the board of directors for the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, also warned that hiring someone who follows a “no growth” policy adopted by the board of commissioners could discourage growth. economic future in Newton County.

“Why do we (the House) care about the county manager position? Because businesses thrive with certainty,” Hall said. “Businesses thrive when they know the predictable game to play. “

He acknowledged that it was the choice of the Commissioners not to keep Lloyd Kerr, whose contract was not renewed on January 1 after six years in the post. The council is now looking to fill an interim county director position.

Hall, chairman of Kelly Consulting, said House member companies hoped the board of commissioners would hire someone with experience in transportation, education, zoning, infrastructure, public safety, development. labor force or other areas resulting from economic growth.

“When you hire that person, whoever they are, make absolutely sure that they are competent, qualified and knowledgeable in these areas of growth,” he said.

“These are essential elements for our growth. They are essential to business growth, ”said Hall.

In 2012, the average household income in Newton County was $ 48,000 and the county government had a budget of $ 45 million. A decade later, its 2022 general fund budget is $ 78 million and the average household income is $ 56,000, according to the latest figures.

The Speaker of the House said that the growth of the household budget and income is the result of “the creation of basic economic development jobs and the recruitment of citizens who came to the county for these jobs, and the auxiliary jobs that support them.

“If we have a no-growth policy, the growth will overtake us. Don’t think that you are preserving what we have,” Hall said.

He said the result would be Newton County to become primarily a dormitory community with a declining industrial sector and greater reliance on growing retail for the tax revenues needed to support public services.

“It’s not sustainable. We must continue to develop both and not “one or the other”, he said.

He said the council of commissioners was faced with the challenge of balancing the influx of new workers settling into the community and providing the infrastructure needed to serve a growing population, such as a road network over which traffic is moving. flows rather than piling up.

Hall said he hoped the council of commissioners would make a wise decision about hiring for the acting county director position.

“We, as a chamber, stand by your side to support this position, to support this growth strategy, and we would like to help partner at the table in this effort. ”

Hall, a former chairman of the Newton Chamber, showed the board of directors a chart he said dated back to 2012 when Baxter International – now Takeda – announced it was planning a new pharmaceutical plant in Stanton Springs.

He said the graph illustrated the county’s economic development strategy as a series of three progressively larger circles. The smaller central circle was shown in red as the true economic base of the county and the “core of an economic development strategy” in which workforce development is a key element, he said. .

It included industries such as General Mills, which produced their products in Newton. Their products are consumed outside the county, and the money for them is returned to Newton in the form of wages and other income.

“That’s a 100% net benefit for Newton County,” Hall said.

A larger circle that surrounded it was the service industry with jobs in retail stores, restaurants, or other service-type businesses like law firms where products are often made in Newton and consumed at home. interior of the county.

“Here’s the main difference – these are not sustainable from a fiscal point of view because we tax them at 7%,” he said. “Every time we tax them, every time (a dollar) spins, it will eventually hit zero.”

Commissioner Demond Mason said the strategy should include encouraging Newton residents to acquire the necessary skills at local institutions such as Georgia Piedmont Technical College.

Commissioner JC Henderson said his decades on the board have shown him that state and local governments often give tax breaks to new employers to relocate to Newton County.

Residents already living in Newton County often do not get the jobs created by new employers, but must make up for lost tax revenue by paying more in taxes for needed government services, Henderson said.

“Why do we say so much is happening here and it isn’t,” he said. “Let’s stop this dog and pony show.”

Hall said the strategy is to encourage new residents with the right skills to move to Newton County and fill positions at new businesses.

He told commissioners county residents were being hired by new industries, but they might not be “at the level you’re comfortable with.”

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