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Jackson council passes incentives for downtown development

Is downtown development so different than large industrial projects such as the Nissan plant in Canton? In both cases, government incentives are being used to attract development and create jobs.

The Jackson City Council recently approved two ordinances that waive building fees for downtown building projects that create at least 30 jobs and take up at least 100,000 square feet. Costs for water and sewer hookups and construction permits are waived.

Frank Bluntson, vice president of the Jackson City Council, says he voted for the ordinances because he views them as the same thing as giving incentives to Nissan. It helps promote long-term economic development and prosperity. He hopes the ordinances will help enhance efforts to bring new development to the City of Jackson.

Jimmy Heidel, economic development consultant for the City of Jackson, says cities are no different than counties and states when looking for ways to spur investment.

“Like every other city and town and state and county, we are looking for incentives to spur investment,” Heidel says. “When I came here over a year ago, Horne CPA was moving out of downtown Jackson and Butler Snow leaving out of downtown Jackson. We went to talk to them about their reasons for leaving. They said they had been promised new development in downtown Jackson for years and that never materialized. They said they were going to move because they wanted to be in new facilities.”

Focused on downtown

Heidel said that made it apparent it was important to promote new developments in the downtown area. Later Parkway Properties approached the city about building a new complex in downtown Jackson, and inquired about additional incentives that would help lower rental rates to make it attractive to locate or stay in downtown Jackson.

“That is where we came up with the amendment to the existing ordinance to put the incentives in place,” Heidel says. “It isn’t for everyone. You have to make a significant investment and hire a significant number of people to get this incentive. This gave Parkway Properties some relief on incentives to make the investment in their Pinnacle building in downtown Jackson. If someone else comes along with the same kind of investment, we will give the same kind of incentives.”

Steve G. Rogers, president and CEO of Parkway Properties in Jackson, says savings generated from the fee waivers for The Pinnacle will be passed along to tenants in the form of lower lease rates.

“The waiver of fees is part of a whole package,” Rogers says. “We will apply for the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act incentives available from the federal government and for the New Market Tax Credits available from the state and federal governments. We have applied for and received waivers from the city. Overall, it is helpful to make us competitive what is happening in Rankin and Madison counties. Developments in those areas such as Highland Colony Parkway get a lot of these benefits. If we don’t have a similar package of benefits, we aren’t going to be competitive. We don’t want to lose projects to the parkway.”

Rogers says when Parkway receives benefits from the city, county, state and federal government, it packages those up and pass them through to tenants or customers in the building which gives them lower rates and makes them more willing to stay downtown.

“We don’t profit but pass through the savings to the customer to help keep them in Jackson,” Rogers says. “It is about retaining businesses in your community and attracting new businesses to your community. This is the first major office building built in Jackson in 21 years. You need a little help sometimes in downtowns in America today to help them grow and prosper. Businesses like ours can help do that, but they can’t do it alone. It takes a lot of cooperation between the business and government entities.”

Rogers adds that the recent action by the Jackson City Council was a result of many discussions between the company and the city over the past year. Parkway Properties announced the decision to build The Pinnacle last October.

“We felt comfortable our city would be supportive of pro development taking place in downtown Jackson,” Rogers says. “I was very happy to see the final vote. However, I feel like most of the work, agreements and discussions had been held prior to that action.”

The Pinnacle at Jackson Place will be a nine-story, 194,000-square-foot, $45-million office building that will be located at the corner of Capitol and Lamar streets next door to Parkway Properties existing office complex, Jackson Place. The 14-story Jackson Place building constructed in 1986 is fully occupied.

“There is a lot of construction going on downtown right now,” Heidel says. “East of Capitol Street going back south for four blocks will be Old Capitol Green, a $175-million project that will have everything from restaurants to lodging and commercial. It will be a little city all in one all done around conservation making everything green with walkways and jogging trails.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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