Morgan County Commissioners gleefully accepted a $375,000 check from Joint Development Authority (JDA) leaders on Tuesday morning. The money is Morgan County’s share of the $15 million land sale out at Stanton Springs to Facebook, the largest social media company in the world.
“We have guests with us today bringing us good tidings,” said Ron Milton, chairman of the Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC). “I am glad to see funds coming back this way.”
Alan Verner, chairman of the JDA, along with Shane Short, executive director of the Development Authority of Walton County, and Serra Hall, senior project manager for Newton County’s Economic Development Authority, presented the BOC with the check during the BOC’s monthly regular meeting. The JDA, a four-county commission comprised of Morgan, Newton, Walton and Jasper counties, is tasked with overseeing the development of Stanton Springs Industrial Park, a project 20-years in the making to bring medical and technological industries into the region. Morgan is receiving an initial $375,000—a 15 percent share of the $2.5 million the Joint Development Authority (JDA) voted to distribute among the four counties earlier this summer.
“As a result of that closing [with Facebook], we were able to eliminate all of the debt that was carried by the four counties for the last 20 years and it is a great thing,” said Verner.
“It is our pleasure to present to you today a check, officially sending money back the other way for the first time ever,” said Short of the first of many revenues coming back to the four counties after decades of investment into Stanton Springs. “We anticipate this trend to continue from this point forward. In addition to giving some money back to each of the counties, we were also able to budget several million dollars for the extension of the Shire Parkway that will open up another 600 acres of land to develop and sell.”
According to Short, the majority of the 600 acres that will be marketable after the parkway extension is located in Morgan County. Short also noted that several businesses are currently interested in purchasing the land to bring new industries into Stanton Springs.
According to Short, this is the only beginning of hefty revenues pouring back into the four counties within the next few years with tax revenue and abatement payments from Shire, a pharmaceutical giant who built a $1.2 billion plant in Stanton Springs and $14 million Bioscience Training Center, and Facebook’s new data center. Facebook’s development plans for the site at Stanton Springs is an historic deal with a hefty price tag of up to $42 billion.
“We anticipate revenues from Shire fairly soon, and revenues from Facebook sooner than first anticipated,” said Short. “This investment is paying off as we are about see significant revenues pouring back into the four counties here within the next few years.” In the long-term, the JDA is estimated to take in $88 million in PILOT payments (payments in lieu of taxes) from Facebook over the course of two decades. Morgan’s share from that is $13.2 million. The JDA will also start bringing in tax revenue from Shire, the $1.2 billion biopharmaceutical plant in Stanton Springs, by 2020.
“They are moving full-steam ahead out there,” said Andy Ainslie, a BOC members and JDA member of the Facebook’s construction.
“After 20 years, our investment is paying off. I think it’s because of our perseverance and sticking to our mission,” said Verner. “It was a big idea, but we stuck to our guns and we wanted the high-quality jobs and good-quality tax revenue and we are well on our way to achieving our goals.”