Walker County Reveals Economic Impact Potential from Planned Hotel/Resort Development

LaFayette, GA (June 9, 2017) – Over 150 Walker County residents attended one of two town hall meetings on the Canyon Ridge Resort development this week. Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield, Walker County Development Authority Chairman Robert Wardlaw and Scenic Land Company President Duane Horton provided information on the project and potential financial benefits. Following their presentation, the panel fielded more than 60 questions from the public over the course of the two meetings.

In the coming days, responses to those questions will be posted online in a FAQ for those unable to attend one of the meetings. One question that came up multiple times dealt with the tax abatement, and why the developer needs a 30 year incentive if he believes so much in the project.

It’s no secret, Walker County is financially broke and badly in debt. The county does not have the funds necessary to provide the infrastructure required to support this project. In addition a fully equipped Fire and EMS station, other services traditionally provided by governmental entities need to be addressed.

In the case of the Canyon Ridge Resort development, Scenic Land Company plans to pay for and build the infrastructure on its own. The tax abatement provides Scenic Land Company with a rebate of sorts for funding community improvements that government typically handles. It also places Scenic Land Company on a more level playing field to compete against similar projects, many of which are funded by cities and states.

Here are a few other notes from the town hall meetings:

  • Property taxes on the project site today and for Years 1 through 5: $16,688 annually
  • Property taxes on the project site for Years 6 through 30: $121,353 annually
  • Total sales tax revenue from project for local governments within Walker County: $660,000 annually
  • Hotel/Motel Excise tax revenue: Estimated at $770,000 annually to market & promote tourism in Walker County
  • Projected tax revenues to Walker County over 40 years WITH project: $78,872,405
  • Projected tax revenues to Walker County over 40 years WITHOUT project: $1,866,720
  • Developer must employ 180 full-time employees and invest $100 million in the project to earn the full abatement
  • Total direct jobs: 292 (hotel/resort and related jobs, excluding construction)
  • Per capita income in Walker County: $21,430 (Georgia Department of Labor Area Labor Profile 2015)
  • Average compensation for resort/hotel employees: $37,000
  • Average daily room rate: $280
  • Occupancy rate: 60% to 70%
  • Number of visitors a year: 35,000 to 50,000
  • 71% of revenue to come from out of state

Future steps:

  • Developer must finalize financing
  • Walker County must create a Special Tax District for residents of the Canyon Ridge community by the end of 2017
  • State of Georgia must approve Tourism Development Act incentive
  • Georgia’s General Assembly must approve a Hotel/Motel tax for Walker County in the 2018 legislative session

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