JDA lands largest investment in the state’s history

Madison City Council members Joe Diletto and Chris Hodges question Bob Hughes about the demographics of potential employees.

Madison City Council members Joe Diletto and Chris Hodges question Bob Hughes about the demographics of potential employees.

Shane Short of the Development Authority of Walton County and Serra Hall of Newton County’s Economic Development address Morgan county commissioners with updates on the Morning Hornet LLC update.

Bob Hughes, executive director of the Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, left, addresses the city council and city manager, David Nunn, Feb. 2, with an update of the speculated Facebook deal.

Photo credit: Shellie Smitley

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Shellie Smitley

City and county government officials continue to be abuzz with talks about the Morning Hornet, LLC, deal, aka Facebook, unofficially.

The Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, Bob Hughes, addressed the mayor and city council members at the monthly work session Feb. 2. Operating under a non-disclosure agreement, Hughes continued to be tight-lipped regarding details of the speculated Facebook deal. Representatives from Walton County and Newton County, Shane Short and Serra Hall, presented Morgan County Commissioners with more information about the anticipated project Feb. 6. Short reiterated that he could not release the name of the parent company but said Governor Deal plans to announce the name at a press conference as early as the end of February.

“That purchase and settlement agreement is pretty significant,” Short said of the JDA’s unanimous decision to approve the sale of 250 of its acres, out of 416 acres sold in Stanton Springs, Jan. 23. “We are selling our property on the JDA side for $62,500 per acre.”

Short said it is his understanding that this deal is the largest investment in the State of Georgia and possibly in the U.S. The JDA stands to make $15 million off the transaction. Additionally, the JDA will receive a $1.5 million bond fee for the $42 billion bond. The five-phase data-center project will span over 20 years. The first phase will consist of two buildings, each approximately 375,000 square feet.

“The reason the bond is so significant is that every three years in every building they replace the data center equipment in those buildings,” Short said.

The agreement includes a 20-year tax abatement in exchange for $88 million in payments. It’s a yearly

$ 1 million-per-building deal that escalates as buildings are completed, up to $5 million. Once the cap is reached it will be paid consistently for the remainder of the 20 years. After 20 years, the company will follow a regular tax structure.

 

The benefits for Morgan County are three-fold. The county is entitled to 15 percent of the tax revenue equaling $13.82 million. Half the revenue generated from the sale will be used to pay off the $7.5 million debt the four-county JDA owes. The remaining $7.5 million will allow the extension of Shire Parkway which will open the Morgan County’s side of the park. This will make 500 to 600 acres of land available for further development. Short said several companies have already expressed some interest in the business property.

The mysterious Morning Hornet company may be slow to release their parent name; however, construction is set to be completed as soon as possible. The service agreement is dated 2024, but Short said he expects the company to begin construction immediately. He estimated the first two buildings will be completed within 18-24 months.

“If you drive today you see a lot of timbering going on,” Short said. “That is a good thing for us because we also receive the timber revenue off the property as well.”

Area residents hoping to find a job might feel the sting of the hornet deal. Councilors Chris Hodges and Joe Diletto questioned Hughes about new job opportunities. The development will bring the need for approximately 50 full-time employees per building and as many as 200 third- party contract employees. Technicians will be needed to ensure the servers and infrastructure are working properly in the 24 hours, seven-days-a-week operation. Most of those hired will be millennials who at the least possess certificates, if not degrees, in computer technology, according to Hughes. The job vacancies are six figured jobs, according to Short.

The Morgan County Superior Court will preside over the project’s bond validation process on Wednesday, Feb. 14. The new bonds will not impact Morgan County taxpayers, according to Hughes.

 

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