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The Jackson Herald
October 6, 1999

No need to 'buy' industry
Because of the pace of growth in Jackson County, we've become somewhat blasé when a new business comes to town. It's not that the community doesn't care or isn't glad to have the business here, but the saturation of success has numbed us to the process.
So it was refreshing to recently read of the excitement in Toccoa when Caterpillar, Inc. announced it would build a plant in that nearby town. Once considered one of the best rural development communities in the state, Toccoa had been eclipsed in the last decade by counties closer to Atlanta which sucked up much of the region's industrial development.
But our excitement for Toccoa began to wane as we read of the incentives and tax breaks that community and the state used to lure Caterpillar - an amount that could hit $7 million to lure the $14 million industry that will provide only 30 jobs.
Somehow, those numbers don't make sense. Even if the incentives and tax breaks end up to be only half that much, they would still top 20 percent of the total investment by Caterpillar. That isn't luring an industry, it's buying one.
Of course, Jackson County leaders have also used incentives and tax breaks to lure industries to the area. But from what we recall, those deals were relatively small compared to the total investment by the firms being wooed.
So what did Toccoa give away?
Turning lanes and an access road, $415,000; water, sewer, electric and natural gas to the Caterpillar building, $100,000; no property tax payments or in-lieu compensation for five years, then an in-lieu phase in over five more years, $926,000; no sales or use tax on machinery or equipment, $962,500; the state will provide employee recruitment and screening for the firm, $110,000; state income credits from $280,000 to $1.34 million; lease of property and removal of existing building by the county, $600,000; grading the site for the firm, $140,000; and $20,000 in smaller breaks. On top of all that, the county will have to spend another $3 million to run a sewer main to the site, a move that could also be used for other firms as well.
Why would Stephens County give such huge tax incentives to Caterpillar relative to its modest investment? Because the name "Caterpillar" can be used to perhaps lure other industries to that area. In essence, Toccoa-Stephens County "bought" the Caterpillar name for future marketing concerns, not for the direct investment itself.
But that's a slippery slope. Once the incentive genie gets fully out of the bottle, it's difficult to put back in.
So how does this affect us in Jackson County? Because as the incentives grow, so will the pressure on our local governments to meet the deals being offered by other areas.
But we must not go down the path of a bidding war for industries. If we must compete, then let it be on the quality of our labor force, our location and other benefits, not on how much we're willing to spend to buy a business.

The Jackson Herald
October 6, 1999

Says all boys should be allowed to play
Dear Editor:
My son loves football. He has hopes of one day playing for the Georgia Bulldogs and possibly even going to the NFL. I told him that was a mighty big goal, but as his mother, it is my responsibility to help him see it through.
The first thing I did was to sign him up to play football in the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department. I thought he would learn the fundamentals of football and gain a little experience playing. Wrong! What he learned was that the coach's kid gets to play every minute of the game. The coach's kid gets to play first string offense and first string defense. I told him not to worry, that maybe next year he would have a different coach. Wrong! Same coach again, same bad experience. I asked the JCPRD director why my son has to have the same coach year after year. I was told that the returning coach usually gets the team. A lot of good that does my son. That means he will have a bad coach year after year.
Well, I guess a little complaining paid off. This year, he has a new coach. There are 31 kids on the team. Perfect. There are enough kids for an offense and defense. That should cut out all that favoritism. Wrong! What he has learned is that the coach's kid and the assistant coach's kid and even the coach's friend's kid gets to play the entire game. He learned that eight kids get to play both first string offense and defense while the other 23 fill the other six positions.
This past Saturday, he even got to see two coaches fight on the sidelines. They weren't opposing coaches, they were on the same team. It took three men to keep the two coaches apart. Well, since these two men were just there to help the head coach and his assistant, we knew they would be asked to leave the field. Wrong! Even after jeers from the crowd calling for the two men to be removed from the field, the game continued with the two unofficial coaches on the sidelines calling the plays.
As the time was running down, the call came out. "Who hasn't been in yet?" Boys began jumping up and down with their arms up. The desire to play was there - you could see it in their faces: "Put me in, coach." That statement could be heard throughout the stands.
Not every boy got to play that day. After the game, I saw a boy with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had been in for one play, just a few seconds of the game. It's a shame, too. I have been to every practice and have seen the kids play. The child is a good little player. He runs like a deer and has the desire to learn. Even more important, he plays the game with all his heart.
I'm not upset for just my son. I'm upset for the child who left the stadium in tears. I'm upset for all the boys who were treated like a bunch of scrubs.
Every child who signed up to play football deserves a chance to play in the game, and I'm not talking about going out for that one token play and then back to the sidelines, either. Let the kids play. You coaches need to hang your egos up at home before you come out onto that field. If your desire to win overshadows the hopes and dreams of those boys, then maybe you shouldn't be a coach at all. Furthermore, I blame JCPRD for putting so many kids on one team and for letting this kind of behavior continue year after year.
Parents, if your child wants to play but doesn't get a chance, you don't have to take it. Stand up! Speak out! Let's get rid of that "good ol' boy" mentality and let the kids be kids!

Dona C. Johnson

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