Roswell is moving quickly to keep pace with its neighbors in the race to build its business base.
This week, the city became the first in north Fulton County to offer incentives to small businesses. The measure supersedes an incentive package passed last fall that targeted larger businesses.
Dangling fee waivers in front of corporate suitors is relatively new in north Fulton. Alpharetta passed the first one three years ago and Sandy Springs launched its own a year later.
But, unlike those plans, Roswell’s package includes provisions for businesses that add as few as five well-paying jobs and who create or expand an existing business location. Well-paying jobs are defined as those paying at least 10 percent above the median for workers in Roswell, as specified by the U.S Census Bureau.
» AJC SPECIAL REPORT: Incentives for companies in Georgia sometimes don’t deliver promised jobs
Steve Stroud, executive director of the Roswell Business Alliance, said more than 60 percent of the city’s 5,400 businesses are home-based and should be part of any incentive package.
“We’re trying to cultivate them, to bring them out of the home and into a business in Roswell instead of maybe moving to Norcross or Sandy Springs,” he said. “We want to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit which was really what founded Roswell.”
Roswell’s package still includes fee waivers or reductions for larger businesses that create well-paying jobs and make large capital investments. Those businesses can qualify for more than $25,000 in fee waivers or reductions.
Alpharetta’s incentives require a business to provide 100 new well-paying jobs and occupy 20,000 square feet of vacant business space in order to qualify for up to $25,000 in fee waivers.
Sandy Springs’ package dwarfs both its neighbors. Its package provides qualifying companies with a streamlined permitting process and reductions on licensing fees and taxes that could potentially exceed $200,000.
To qualify, businesses would need to create a minimum of 15 full-time positions and provide new capital investment of more than $1 million. The incentive, which would extend for three years, increases based on the capital expenditures and number of jobs added.
So far, four businesses have been awarded the incentives package, representing nearly 1,900 new jobs and $113 million in capital investments.
Johns Creek and Milton, north Fulton’s newest cities, have no formal incentive packages for businesses, although officials are studying them as part of an economic development program.
Roswell Mayor Jere Wood said city leaders were looking to liberalize their approach to economic development, providing inducements to large businesses and good-faith incentives to foster small business growth.
“It’s not a big number, but it shows our heart is in the right place,” he said.