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Thursday July 30th, 2015 12:10AM

Governor Deal signs legislation boosting Ga. downtown areas

By Staff
ATLANTA - Governor Nathan Deal yesterday signed into law a bill that empowers Georgia cities with even greater means to revitalize and re-energize their downtowns. HB 128, which created the new Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fund, gives the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) new tools to help cities with low interest loans as well as planning and other assistance.

"Healthy downtowns reflect the strong spirit of entrepreneurship in Georgia and attract economic development," said Gov. Deal. "This legislation is yet another example of our state's continued commitment to fostering a pro-business environment necessary to stay competitive in the global marketplace and to keep Georgia the No.1 place for business."

Small businesses comprise 99 percent of Georgia's businesses and, as such, are the backbone of the state's economy. As industrial announcements have elevated Georgia to be the No. 1 state in the U.S. in which to do business, small businesses and entrepreneurs are expanding and seeking to set up shop in "bricks and mortar" stores in thriving downtown districts. The Georgia Downtown Renaissance Act creates a vehicle for the Department of Community Affairs and the state of Georgia to continue working hand-in-hand to help entrepreneurs realize their dreams through low-interest loans in the form of gap financing.

"As the state's community development agency, we are pleased that the Renaissance Act provides us with the ability helps us to extend even more resources toward protecting the heart and soul of our communities: Georgia's beautiful and unique downtowns," said DCA Commissioner Gretchen Corbin. "Programs like this are key to community development: they build up the private sector, protect historic resources through preservation and grow commerce in the central business districts of our state."

The Renaissance Fund will partner with DCA's Downtown Development Revolving Loan Fund, which has made 130 awards since its creation in 1999, stimulating $64.5 million in private investment and resulting in 1,464 new or retained jobs, 138 new businesses, and 1,600 new residential units. Among the Loan Fund's other partners are the Georgia Municipal Association, Georgia Cities Foundation and private lenders.

Supporting the growth of Georgia's downtowns has been a longtime mission of the Department of Community Development. The Georgia Main Street Program, housed in DCA's Downtown Development division, saw 29 percent growth in net new jobs created during State Fiscal Year 2013 in Georgia's downtowns, an increase of more than 1,100 jobs from 2012. Additionally, 120 small businesses in those 96 Main Street communities chose to expand that year and contributed to the more than $200 million invested in downtown rehabilitation in the state.

DCA's Georgia Main Street Program leads the nation in private investment and net jobs growth in Main Street cities and has been chosen to host the 2015 National Main Streets Conference, to be held in Atlanta in May 2015. Since its inception in 1980, Georgia's Main Street cities have produced 59,000 net new jobs in Georgia downtowns.

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (GDCA) partners with communities to create a climate of success for Georgia's families and businesses through community and economic development, local government assistance, and safe and affordable housing. Using state and federal resources, GDCA helps communities spur private job creation, implement planning, develop downtowns, generate affordable housing solutions and promote volunteerism. GDCA also helps qualified low- and moderate- income Georgians buy homes, rent housing, and prevent foreclosure and homelessness. For more information, click here.
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