JONESBORO — City Manager Ricky Clark said that with the Jonesboro downtown district’s recent designation as a Rural Zone, the city now has another tool to incentivize development and revitalization.

The entire downtown district along North and South Main Street has been designated by the Department of Community Affairs under the Rural Zone Program and is eligible for certain tax credits for businesses and investors that create new jobs, invest in properties and rehabilitate existing structures.

Jonesboro is among the first nine communities to receive such designation since the Rural Act was adopted by the Georgia legislature last year and went into effect Jan. 1. The purpose, according to DCA, is to “provide tax credit incentives to promote the revitalization of vacant rural Georgia downtowns by encouraging investment, job creation, and economic growth in long-established business districts by the designation of ‘Rural Zones.’”

With an existing downtown business district in need of improvements, Jonesboro was eligible for the program. It also met requirements based on its population and economic distress due to poverty and blight, as well as its strategic plans for revitalization and development.

Clark said with analysis already completed during the city’s Enterprise Zone approval process last year, and with the Blueprint Jonesboro plans in place, the city was poised to take advantage of the Rural Zone program’s offerings.

“We figure the more tools that we have in our toolbox, the better,” he said.

He hopes that the tax credits will serve as added incentive for businesses to locate in Jonesboro, especially now that the city is moving forward with plans to expand the downtown district with the Broad Street project.

The project kicked off Tuesday with the demolition of blighted structures along the Broad Street corridor, including the former Clayton House building. The demolition was funded by a Community Block Development Grant.

“The beginning of our Broad Street project is the beginning of our renewal of our downtown,” Mayor Joy Day told the crowd gathered for the demolition. “It will link Lee Street Park and our downtown area. It will serve as the catalyst to improve businesses, additional businesses, and it’s a meeting place for our citizens and any visitors who chose to come to Jonesboro.

“We have a lot to offer, and we want to make our downtown match all of our efforts and the quality of life in Jonesboro.”

Clark said he knows there is demand for more restaurants and retail in downtown Jonesboro, and that businesses would be successful there. The goal now is to get quality businesses to the city.

“We want to sweeten the pot,” he said.

With the Broad Street corridor officially under construction, the first change to come is the opening of My Place Coffee Cafe, an initiative of First Baptist Church of Jonesboro. The city is also currently in talks with one pizzeria establishment looking to locate in the downtown district with plans for a rooftop patio. Clark said that business would be eligible for the tax credits under the Rural Zone plan, which he hopes will help to offset franchise costs and other expenses.

Under the program, tax credit benefits include:

• $2,000/year/full-time equivalent job created within the zone for five years. At least two net, new full-time equivalent jobs must be created and maintained in order to qualify for the job credits or any additional credits listed below;

• Up to $125,000 credit (claimed over five years) for investing in the downtown area. This is capped at 25 percent of the total investment cost, not to exceed $25,000 in credits claimed over five years; and

• Up to $150,000 credit (claimed over 3 years) for rehabilitating structures in the downtown area. This is capped at 30 percent of the total investment cost, not to exceed $50,000 in credits claimed over the three years.

Jonesboro will work with the DCA to learn more about the tax credit roll-out as the state agency continues to support the city’s revitalization plans. A training for city officials is scheduled for later this month.

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Crime and courts reporter Chelsea Prince joined the Henry Herald and Clayton News Daily in 2016. She is a graduate of Emory University.

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