ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - An $8 million grant is being made to the city of Albany, to install critical utility infrastructure needed to support the downtown business community.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross made the announcement in a release Wednesday, saying that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is administering the grant.
“This project will aid downtown Albany by providing the critical infrastructure needed to increase the community’s resiliency to future natural disasters,” said Secretary Ross. “Moreover, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Opportunity Zone designation will further incentivize investment in the area and help develop the local economy.”
“Thanks to the President’s leadership and Republican-led efforts in Congress, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is delivering real results for rural America,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “This grant to the Albany community will enhance access to high-speed internet and support critical economic and medical infrastructure in Dougherty County.”
“Regional leaders in Southwest Georgia, Albany and Dougherty County have come together time and again in the face of natural disasters to help their community recover and move forward, and I am thrilled that the U.S. Commerce Department chose to support economic development in the city of Albany,” said U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
“This federal investment, which will be matched with $2.6 million locally and will generate additional private funding, is a perfect example of the benefits envisioned by the Opportunity Zones we created in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to help our communities in economically disadvantaged areas receive a needed boost,” said Senator Isakson.
“President Trump and Secretary Ross continue to deliver on their promise to make Georgia’s infrastructure needs a priority,” said U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA). “This critical project will help build underground utility systems to serve downtown Albany and make electricity and internet connections more resilient for future natural disasters."
"By designating this area as an Opportunity Zone under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Trump Administration’s investment will incentivize businesses to continue contributing to economic growth in the community,” Senator Perdue said.
“This investment will help us bounce back faster after natural disasters and strengthen the local economy,” said Representative Sanford Bishop. “I am excited for the prospects the Economic Development Administration grant will bring to the City of Albany and I know it will be well-received.”
This project will help fund buried utility infrastructure, including electricity and high-speed internet, to serve businesses in downtown Albany, and will enhance utility system resiliency in the event of future natural disasters.
The new infrastructure will also benefit the Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, a critical regional facility, and surrounding medical and commercial businesses.
This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission. EDA funds the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission to help bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.
This project is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (PL 115-123) (PDF), in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, wildfires, and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.
The money goes to a designated Opportunity Zone, created by President Donald J. Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically-distressed communities nationwide. In June 2019, EDA added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority, which increases the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to fuel greater public investment in these areas.
To learn more about the Opportunity Zone program, see the Treasury Department resources page here.
About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.
Businesses hope the money comes through
Business owners in Albany said they hope the $8 million federal grant from the Economic Development Administration will actually come through.
Some business owners said they’ll be surprised if they get to see any of the money at all.
“If they have an $8 million grant, I can guarantee you that we will not see a dime of it,” said Erika Jones, owner of Ethnic Shynes Beauty Salon in downtown Albany. “I would like to see it. All I do is hear about it.”
Jones said she isn’t convinced with plans to develop downtown.
The Economic Development Administration awarded the city Wednesday with an $8 million grant for critical utility infrastructure needs, like enhancing access to high-speed internet.
Something Joel Davis’s store needs.
“So whenever the WiFi is out or whenever the internet is out, business stops,” said Davis, owner of Dav Pro Wireless.
In his four years downtown, Davis said there’s more than internet problems there.
“This is an undeserved part of the county, part of the city to me as far as business is concerned,” said Davis.
Davis said he’s had problems with roads, flooding from storms, roof leaks and power outages.
“The infrastructure does limit people’s desire to frequent downtown,” explained Davis.
Jones agrees and said lots of improvements are needed.
“I would like to see some of this blight gone. They look terrible. They need to be cleaned up,” Jones said.
The plan is to bring more investment into downtown.