The Weather Channel threatens to pull up stakes if it doesn’t get incentives from Cobb
by Nikki Wiley
December 10, 2013 12:27 AM | 17838 views | 40 40 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Weather Channel, headquartered in Cumberland, is asking for ‘significant’ tax breaks in return for an expansion that includes 200 to 300 employees at an average salary of about $75,000 — or else it may leave Cobb County.<br>Staff/Jeff Stanton
The Weather Channel, headquartered in Cumberland, is asking for ‘significant’ tax breaks in return for an expansion that includes 200 to 300 employees at an average salary of about $75,000 — or else it may leave Cobb County.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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CUMBERLAND — One of Cobb’s high-profile corporate citizens is threatening to leave if it doesn’t receive “significant” tax breaks in return for an expansion that includes 200 to 300 employees at an average salary of about $75,000.

The Weather Channel, headquartered in Cumberland and owned by NBC, has never asked for subsidies before, but it now needs a reason not to leave Cobb, said Kathy Angell, senior vice president of The Weather Channel’s taxation division, in a Nov. 1 email to Brooks Mathis, executive vice president of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce.

The company opened its current offices on Interstate North Parkway at I-75 and I-285 in 1996.

Its planned expansion is valued at $90 million, Mathis said in emails obtained by the MDJ. Shirley Powell, executive vice president, said The Weather Channel would not comment and that anything the MDJ reported at this point would be “speculation.” The emails were given to the MDJ by Kevin Schmidt, a former Cobb resident and an investigative analyst for Washington, D.C.-based Cause of Action, a government transparency watchdog group.

The negotiations are ongoing and one of the sticking points could be a parking facility for the expanded Weather Channel offices.

“To be honest with you, (off the record) none of these discussions have really provided us with any type compelling incentives for us to stay in Cobb County. I am just being honest here,” Angell wrote to Mathis in an email. “Our senior management feels that they would be making a significant investment to stay here and as far as I know, The Weather Channel has never historically asked for any incentives from Cobb County. The property tax abatement is also not a compelling incentive at the current amount, and in fact would cost us to pursue that option. Nobody has focused on any incentives for a parking build, which is our most current challenge to solve.”

More parking is needed for the company’s employees, according to the emails, and a bus stop outside its headquarters is being considered, along with a county-funded traffic study and traffic light or speed bumps.

Public officials who have been communicating via phone and email with The Weather Channel include Nelson Geter, executive director of the Development Authority, county Chairman Tim Lee and Faye DiMassimo, director of Cobb’s Department of Transportation.

The emails were sent between Sept. 30 and Nov. 2.

Will state kick in to help Cobb keep TWC?

The Weather Channel could be eligible for a laundry list of state and local incentives, including sales tax exemptions, film tax credits, property tax abatement on new construction and a grant from the Development Authority, among others.

Its proposed expansions include renovated office space and TV studios, new parking and between 200 and 300 jobs with an average salary of about $75,000.

Mathis said it’s important to pull out all of the stops for a project of this type. He said keeping the company was “crucial.”

“It is actually more important that we do it for companies that are willing to pay those kinds of salaries to their employees because those are the kinds of jobs that we want,” Mathis said.

It’s more difficult, Mathis said, to recruit new high-paying businesses than it is to keep existing blue-chip companies in Cobb.

The company is expecting to hire 288 new employees between now and 2016 representing more than $29.4 million in salaries. The majority of those employees will earn an average salary of almost $75,000. Another 44 directors with an average salary of $122,000 are also expected to be hired, according to emails.

Sam Champion, the chief meteorologist for ABC’s Good Morning America show, announced last week he is leaving that network to join The Weather Channel as its executive editor. The top rung of The Weather Channel’s on-air talent earns an average of $1.5 million per year, according to the documents presented by the company to county officials and obtained by MDJ.

Nelson Geter, the Development Authority director who also serves as an economic development manager for the Cobb Chamber, said it’s vital to keep the company.

“I think there’s always a potential when we’re about to bring or lose a company the size of The Weather Channel … that we should do everything humanly possible to make sure we retain those companies including the possibility of offering retention grants,” Geter said.

Mathis said large corporations like The Weather Channel help him and other economic-development officials market Cobb as a business-friendly community.

“All of these companies, like The Weather Channel, Home Depot, Atlanta Braves, GE, help tell our story because they’re notable companies,” Mathis said.

Cobb Chairman Tim Lee acknowledged the company faces challenges in staying in Cobb and said talks have been taking place for about six weeks and remain ongoing.

Lee said there is an appropriate limit to the incentives that should be offered to any company, but said that limit has not been determined in the case of The Weather Channel because it’s still too early in the negotiation process.

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The Weather Channel’s Wish List:

• Grants for parking deck and building code relief on a $1 million retention pond

• Grants and property tax exemptions for office and TV studio expansion and building renovation

• Grants and property tax exemption for technology upgrades

• County or state-funded traffic light or speed bumps on Interstate North Parkway

• Bus route stop at 300 Interstate North Parkway

• Relaxation of county sign permit code to allow for an electronic sign and a marketing sign wrapping the building

Comments
(40)
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stevo1927
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December 13, 2013
Judging by the accuracy of their forecasts, I say cya.
Tommie2777
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December 13, 2013
They suck anyway. Who cares.
Beancounter Eric
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December 11, 2013
To the Weather Channel;

Hope you like your new digs, have a nice trip, and don't let the door hit you in the posterior.

Toodles!!

J Holmes
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December 11, 2013
Who care we they are located they cover the whole world anyway!!! What do I a Cobb resident get from them being located in Cobb County? Nothing more than someone who lives in L.A. If Cobb Commissioners use a penny of my tax dollars to support them staying - I will do everything in my power to insure all who votes yes is oustered from their perch next voting cycle.
reap what you sew
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December 11, 2013
Why shouldn't they want some goodies? Cobb County just jumped into some gargantuan subsidies for another cable tv driven enterprise. In fact, why wouldn't Cobb want to show even more love to keep a long time, tax paying, nationally-recognized enterprise -- rather than shower the billionaires and millionaires of MLB with these subsidies?
Me, "PC"? NOT!
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December 10, 2013
Sounds as if Philip Gold$tein is giving them advice!
Homer the Brave
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December 10, 2013
Once The Weather Channel gets money, who will be next in line? My guess is Home Depot. They've already threatened before to move to Jacksonville. Imagine all of those headquarters jobs going bye-bye. How many hundreds of millions will Home Depot be able to demand? They've got at least ten times as many employees as The Weather Channel.

It's open season on the Cobb County taxpayer... unless you're a large corporation that is.
Cut taxes for all
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December 10, 2013
Heck, why don't we just do away with taxes for everyone and just go broke? Give me a break, they shouldn't give anyone tax breaks. Now this will all snowball with every business asking for tax breaks. The heck with schools, who needs them? The heck with the police and fire department, who needs them? The heck with all county services, who needs them? We give seniors tax break and look what has happened. We are a meca for retired folks with no taxes for schools. Now, it is businesses wanting all these tax breaks. This county is doomed, but who cares? Not the politicians, businesses or public.
Great Asset
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December 10, 2013
The Weather Channel is a major asset to Cobb and this region. We should do everything we can to keep them here in Cobb. $75,000 average salary jobs are huge and just the types of jobs we need here and they are planning to add more...we need more companies like them to add more jobs.
Just A Thought
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December 10, 2013
Just a thought, but don't most of their employees live in Fulton County??? The business is only where it is because the space was cheap, whereas they could not get the same space near Perimeter or Lenox in the same price range. Let them go.....in the big scheme of things, does having their name on the side of that building really make that big of a difference? NOW, if Lockheed wants incentives...let's talk.
Old timer
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December 10, 2013
Look at the taxes they pay...jobs they provide... We might want them to stay...
chilllabit
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December 10, 2013
Good bye and good riddance. Who needs the whiny hippy dippy weather people here anyway. Let them go beg for money from Dekalp, Atlanter or, hey, what about Clayton - all that fuel tax money from the graftport. Oh, but forget about class A office space with low muggings. That would be Cobb.
Tim Off Again
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December 10, 2013
Instead of bringing the Braves to Cobb, along with the unanticipated nighmare of transportation, crime, schools, etc. problems and a few, seasonal, low-paying jobs, Tim Lee should be focusing on keeping the high-paying Weather Channel jobs in Cobb.

Oh, but keeping TWC in Cobb would not give Lee a national and state presence, would it??? See how Tim Lee thinks and acts: Everything is about Tim Lee and what is best for him!!!
Location location
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December 10, 2013
Given the proximity of the property to the future stadium, I'm sure the site would be redeveloped with a higher tax generating use than an office building. Retail and hospitality would add jobs and hundreds of thousands of sales tax and liquor tax generating visitors from other counties during baseball season.
which way ray
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December 10, 2013
I needs me some breaks too!! I need to buy food!!!

Can I get one of those jobs for 75k a year!!
Be Careful
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December 10, 2013
The tax breaks will be more than made up for by the increase in employment. All those people making an average of $75,000 a year will be spending money in Cobb, living in Cobb...etc...etc...

Giving a tax break is an incentive for greater growth.

This makes perfect sense.
Just Wait
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December 10, 2013
The most telling part of this story is that The Weather Channels first contact was with the Chamber of Commerce. Never forget who's really in charge.
Chief Nok-a-Homa
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December 10, 2013
"The Weather Channel...owned by NBC, has never asked for subsidies before, but it now needs a reason not to leave Cobb, said Kathy Angell, senior vice president of The Weather Channel’s taxation division, in a Nov. 1 email to Brooks Mathis, executive vice president of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce."

What hath Tim Lee wrought?

Great DEALS
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December 10, 2013
It is not surprising that other business owners in Cobb will ask for the same deals as what our commissioners are giving away to other businesses. Cobb Chambers of Business should be paying for the deals made. At the next elections -get rid of the current commissioners - it would be a great start.
James T.
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December 10, 2013
Those demands are hilariously unreasonable. "Building code relief", "permit code relaxation". Use stupid language all you want, they want to ignore basic county code. The fact that they are demanding large sums of money from the tax payers at the same time? Good Lord they must think we are stupid.
??
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December 10, 2013
Cobb voted Timmy Lee back in office.

RECALL LEE
Joseph Pond
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December 10, 2013
Another fine mess you've gotten us into, Timmy~

You have opened a fine can of worms with your crony corporate handouts. It is not solely on your shoulders- the other three RINOs on the Board allow you to continue. I pray to God that people wake up and start voting out the Commissioners that feel that the people of Cobb are second to the CID and Chamber of Commerce.
Hank Moody
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December 10, 2013
Someone like Joseph Pond know one of his Chickens got out and is on the MDJ website posting comments...
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