Morgan County to receive $13 million share

Tia Lynn Ivey News

More than $13 million is coming to Morgan County over the course of 20 years due to a multibillion-dollar deal with (what has widely been reported as) Facebook.  Facebook is the largest social media website in the world with more than 1.3 billion active users.

The Joint Development Authority (JDA), the four-county board, comprised of Morgan, Jasper, Walton and Newton counties, tasked with overseeing the development of Stanton Spring, has negotiated a deal that has resulted in a $15 million land sale of 416 acres, and a whopping $88 million in PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) over the next two decades. Morgan County is entitled to 15 percent of that $88 million, which amounts to $13.2 million.

Shane Short, the executive director of the Development Authority of Walton County, gave a presentation to the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Tuesday morning to specifically detail the benefits the historic deal will yield for Morgan County.

According to Short, the JDA will secure up to $42 billion in bonds for Morning Hornet, earning another $1.25 million for facilitating the bond process.

“We are still not at liberty to reveal the name of the parent company for this deal,” teased Short, “But we believe this is the largest investment ever to happen in the State of Georgia. We also could not find an investment this big throughout the county and believe this is also one of the largest bond deals ever done in the nation.”

According to Short, Governor Nathan Deal will officially announce Morning Hornet’s parent company, which has been leaked to various news outlets as Facebook, later this month in a press conference.

Short implored the BOC to focus on the benefits for Morgan County that will come about as a result of this deal in addition to the $13 million in PILOT payments.

“The benefits to Morgan County are two-fold,” said Short.

According to Short, since the JDA authorized the $15 million land sale, that money will be used to pay off the debt service payments all four counties pay annually on Stanton Springs.

“That will save us $90,000 a year,” said Commissioner Andy Ainslie, who also sits on the JDA board.

“Not only will your debt service payments be eliminated, but the rest of the money from the land sale will allow us to extend Shire Parkway all the way into Morgan County, which will also benefit your county,” said Short. According to Short, the extended parkway will open up another 500-600 acres to sell to other financially-lucrative companies, which will yield more profits for Morgan County through land sale revenues, future property taxes and job opportunities.

Short also noted that when the tax abatement period is over, a full property tax structure will resume.

“In 20 years, you will have quite a windfall,” said Short. “But with just this deal alone, our debt is paid off and we will have significant revenue coming in. Any more land sales down the road will just be icing on the cake,” said Short.

Short noted that while Morgan County will yield significant revenue from this deal, most of the costs associated with service delivery and infrastructure are carried by Walton and Newton counties. “It’s a significant deal for your county and you don’t have to deal with any of the hassle of service delivery or infrastructure,” said Short.

Commissioner Ainslie commented that the vision for Stanton Springs, a fully developed industrial park in the fields of technology and bioscience, began many years ago.

“I am really pleased in all the folks who had the mind to look 20 years down the road to get us where we are now,” said Ainslie, who specifically thanked Mack Bohlen, a former county commissioner who represented this effort during his tenor on the BOC.

According to Short, Morgan County should anticipate even more high profile development projects on the horizon due to the State of Georgia putting “significant investments” into attracting large businesses.

“We are going to see a lot more development in our area in coming years. There is enough room in our area for all of us to benefit and grow together.”

According to Short. The “Morning Hornet” project, which will be a five-phased project, is eager to get started on construction in a couple of week. A Morgan County Superior Court Judge will first have to validate the first round of bonds for $750 million on Feb. 14.

“After that, we expect the completion of the first building in 18 to 24 months,” said Short. “Great things are coming our way.”

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