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Atlanta Mayor's Office E-Mails Reveal City Officials Surprised By Braves' Relocation
Published December 20, 2013
WHY GEORGIA? In Atlanta, Jim Walls reported Braves execs "may seek millions more in tax credits from the state -- largesse that would be underwritten by all Georgians." Tax incentives "could tip the scales of the project toward majority-public financing." While Braves boosters have been "emphasizing that the ballclub would pay more than half" of the estimated $672M, if even $12M in state tax credits "comes through, the team’s share of the currently projected cost would fall to less than half." Though it is "too soon to know exactly how much the Braves might seek," Walls cited a document as showing that negotiators for Cobb County and the Braves "considered funding packages that included" up to $60M in state tax credits on top of the $300M in county funding. Braves Exec VP/Business Operations Mike Plant said that the team "doesn't know just yet which" tax incentives it "might go after." The team "had been looking at many of those same state incentives to help with renovations if they had chosen to remain at their current home in downtown Atlanta." Plant also "mentioned the possibility of another incentive, created especially for new tourism destinations, that can be granted only by the governor." If the team were approved for the program, it could "earn the Braves a 10-year rebate on all sales taxes it collected at the new stadium" -- perhaps $20M (ATLANTAMAGAZINE.com, 12/18).
SPIN DOCTORS: In Atlanta, Willoughby Mariano notes Revitalize Cobb, a group of backers for the Braves ballpark, wants county residents "to know that the new field of dreams will grow jobs and money." The paper previously "analyzed the claims that the stadium would require no tax increase for homeowners and provide" $3M for Cobb schools, and rated the assertions "Half True." Similarly, a "few problems with Revitalize Cobb’s portrayal" to residents in a mailer of the findings of a study commissioned by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce were found. Most of the 9,241 jobs it references "will not go to Cobb residents," and "by and large, these jobs aren't 'new.'" The study stated that only about 15% of construction-phase jobs "will go to Cobb residents." It also stated that about 27% of full-time jobs and 30% of part-time jobs in the ballpark's operation phase "are expected to go to county residents." Revitalize Cobb's claim that the Braves move will result in $295M in wages also is "based on a regional number." Georgia State Univ. professor Bruce Seaman said, "The overall amount of wages is absolutely not the Cobb County payroll. No way." Revitalize Cobb "did not hide this fact," as some of this "appears in smaller type on the other side of the mailer." For the "most part, jobs that already exist in downtown Atlanta are simply moving to Cobb." Another problem with the group's claim is its decision "to count 1,074 'nonprofit' jobs." These positions are part of a Braves program where "nonprofit volunteers work for free in stadium jobs," and the wages "they would have earned go to their nonprofit." This volunteer work "does have an economic impact," but by including these jobs, Revitalize Cobb "boosts its job numbers" by 13% (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 12/20).