Cobb school board member Dr. Jaha Howard on Thursday pushed Home Depot executives for more action in support of the school district during a presentation on the company’s latest expansion in Cobb.
Howard called for potential partnerships between the home improvement giant and the school district, including the potential for Home Depot’s involvement in the career and technology academy scheduled to open this fall on the campus of Osborne High School.
“I think the general public would appreciate more tangible, well-spelled-out arrangements that we have with Home Depot,” Howard said. “We have an innovation and technology academy that will be miles down the road. Home Depot should be front-and-center. You have an elementary school that’s literally right across the street. ... I think there’s a lot of room for us to maximize our partnership.”
Board member Charisse Davis also suggested the company could expand its work with the school system through support of the Cobb Schools Foundation.
Jim McCarthy, Home Depot’s senior director of real estate, said the company is open to a more active relationship with Cobb schools and suggested a partnership involving its technology center could be in the cards.
“I think you bring up a very, very important point of how we can certainly strengthen the ties between The Home Depot and the school system,” McCarthy said, suggesting that the technology center’s employees responsible for writing code and other IT-related tasks could involve local students.
McCarthy said that potential partnership “could be huge for Cobb County schools,” and could also benefit the company in its recruitment.
Home Depot’s technology center near the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Franklin Gateway in Marietta, employs about 2,500 IT workers, he said.
McCarthy also pledged to return to the board members with more information in coming weeks regarding how Home Depot is involved in supporting and partnering with the school district.
Home Depot has spent $27 million to acquire an office building at 2410 Paces Ferry Road, across the street from its Vinings headquarters under its latest expansion, and is seeking to refurbish and equip that building at a cost of $27.5 million.
The 125,000-square-foot office building has capacity for around 600 employees and is on 4.1 acres of land, which Home Depot bought from Builders Insurance in December 2019. Average salaries for the new employees are estimated to average $100,000.
Home Depot and members of the Development Authority of Cobb County say this expansion of the home improvement giant in the county will channel $648,000 in new taxes into school district coffers over a 10-year period, despite tax abatements the company is expected to receive on the building improvements and property purchases. The new taxes would be phased in over a decade.
Nelson Geter, the development authority’s executive director, told the Cobb school board on Thursday that there would be no “erosion to the existing tax base” during that time, noting that, as it stands, the property represents $19 million on Cobb County tax roles and pays about $137,000 annually into the school district. He said Home Depot has agreed to continue paying that amount over the proposed tax abatement period.
But Davis challenged the development authority reps, probing for the amount of money the school district would receive in tax revenues if the tax abatement period did not exist.
“Especially with these cuts that we’re going to be making,” she said, “I just think it’s important, and people want to have those numbers.”
Should the incentives be OK’d, Geter told the MDJ on Friday, the district will miss out on $479,000 that it could receive if the property was taxed in full over the 10-year abatement period.
But, Geter and development authority Chairman Clark Hungerford argue that without the project, the school district would not receive $648,000 in new revenue.
“I’ve always said half a loaf is better than no loaf at all,” Hungerford told the board. “You can get 100% of zero, or you can get 50% of an increase.”
Development authority votes on the Home Depot incentives are expected to take place as soon as next month.