Grant & Loan Programs: Equity

Regulations

Table of Contents • Chapter 413-1

413-1.01 Scope of Rule

This regulation governs the operation of the OneGeorgia Equity Fund Program as established by the OneGeorgia Authority (O.C.G.A.50-34-1) through its resolution adopted on October 6, 2000. In said resolution, the OneGeorgia Authority authorized the Department of Community Affairs (hereinafter referred to as "agent") as the implementing entity for purposes of the Equity Fund Program’s operation and administration.

Authority O.C.G.A.50-34-1 et seq.

413-1.02 Definitions

The definitions for purposes of this regulation are identical in all respects to the terms defined in O.C.G.A.50-34-2. “Rural County”, which is not defined in O.C.G.A. 50-34-2, shall be defined using the most recent data and estimates from the U.S. Bureau of the Census to mean a county with a population less than 50,000 where 10% or more of the population lives in poverty.

413-1.03 Purpose

The purpose of the OneGeorgia Equity Fund is to provide a program of financial investments that includes grants, loans, grant/loan combinations and any other forms of assistance authorized by (O.C.G.A.50-34-1 et seq.) to finance activities that will assist applicants in promoting the economic security and creation and retention of economic opportunities for the citizens of the state through the development and retention of employment opportunities in rural areas of the state. In carrying out the purposes of the Equity Program, proposals that invoke cooperation, collaboration and regional partnerships between local governments and public and private-sector partners shall always receive the greatest consideration for assistance.

413-1.04 Eligible Applicants

Eligible applicants and recipients of grant and loan funds awarded under this program shall include, but not be limited to, general-purpose local governments (municipalities and counties), local government authorities and joint or multi-county development authorities. All local government units that are party to an application must be in compliance, where applicable, with the requirements regarding comprehensive planning (O.C.G.A.50-8-1 et seq.), report of local government finances (O.C.G.A.36-81-8 [b]), local service delivery strategies (O.C.G.A.36-70-1 et seq.), government management indicators survey (O.C.G.A.36-81-8 [h]) and local government authorities’ registration (O.C.G.A.36-80-8 et seq.).

413-1.05 Eligible Activities

Eligible uses of funds provided under the Equity Fund include those activities and the provision of facilities and services as described in O.C.G.A.50-34-1 et seq. Such activities include, but are not limited to, the provision of such public infrastructure, services, facilities and improvements as: rail access, road improvements, water and sewer improvements, technology infrastructure, drainage improvements, other public utilities, public facilities and services specifically designed to increase economic opportunities through job training, workforce development, education and other employment support services, the acquisition, clearance and disposition of real property, site preparation, site improvements, real property rehabilitation, and the provision of planning services and technical assistance.

In addition, the Equity Fund may provide assistance to eligible applicants to finance facilities, projects and project costs for use by businesses and enterprises, purchase or lease of equipment or other assets or any other community or economic development and business assistance activity or purpose identified in O.C.G.A.50-34-1 et seq. It is important to note that the proposed use of Equity Fund monies will dictate whether the funds can be provided to the applicant to undertake an activity, or whether they will be provided to the applicant but require a loan, lease or other agreement between the applicant and participating business or enterprise.

In general, public acquisition or improvements of public facilities and infrastructure can be undertaken directly by the applicant with Equity Fund monies. Such acquisitions or improvements do not require the use of a development authority as the applicant or party to the application. Where Equity Fund monies are expended for the public acquisition and/or improvements of privately used land, buildings, machinery and equipment, or other private assets, the financed assets must generally be owned or controlled by the applicant and leased, subleased or sold to the business or enterprise in accordance with O.C.G.A.36-62-7 and/or O.C.G.A.50-34-6. In order to maximize their competitiveness for public water, wastewater and solid-waste management projects, applicants are encouraged to discuss their project with the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA) before submitting a proposal to the Authority.

The OneGeorgia Authority reserves the right to establish criteria regarding the nature, types and forms of financial assistance that the Equity Fund provides. In general, assistance will take the form of grants, low-interest loans or loan/grant combinations. The exact structure and amount will be determined by the activity to be financed, the financial capacity of the applicant, business and/or enterprise. Loans will be structured using generally accepted public and private financing instruments and procedures. All recaptured funds must be returned to the OneGeorgia Authority.

413-1.06 Fund Availability

Funding appropriated or otherwise made available to the OneGeorgia Authority will be made available to eligible applicants through an application process that will be announced through the OneGeorgia Authority’s and agent’s publication of notices of fund availability (NOFA's). Such NOFA’s will be published on the Authority and/or its agent’s web-sites and at the discretion of the OneGeorgia Authority and agent, may also be mailed to eligible applicants, applicant associations and/or placed in advertisements in certain local or state publications.

The OneGeorgia Authority’s NOFA will establish application submission guidelines. Applications will be accepted throughout the submission period and will be reviewed based upon the criteria provided in Section 413-1.09.

Eligible applicants must apply for assistance under this program in a format and manner prescribed by the OneGeorgia Authority. Application guides and guidelines may be obtained from the OneGeorgia Authority or:

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs
OneGeorgia Equity Fund Program
c/o Office of Economic Development
60 Executive Park South, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30329-2231

413-1.07 Application Submission Procedures

The application procedure for the Equity Program includes an optional Initial Project Assessment phase and an Application phase. The purpose of the Initial Project Assessment is to provide: A) a determination of a proposed activity or activities eligibility for Equity Fund financing; B) a determination on whether the proposed activity or activities and broader project can meet the basic Equity Program thresholds and be competitive under the rating and review system as outlined in Section 413-1 .09; and C) an opportunity to obtain Pre-Agreement Cost Approval (PACA) from the Authority so that projects may obtain interim financing and proceed with certain identified project activities prior to receipt of an actual Grant or Loan Agreement.

Eligible applicants may submit Initial Project Assessments and/or Applications for consideration at any time. The OneGeorgia Authority strongly encourages potential applicants to contact the Authority or DCA to arrange an Initial Project Assessment review prior to submitting an Application.

Initial Project Assessments and/or Applications may be submitted individually by an eligible applicant, or jointly, by two or more applicants. Joint submissions must contain a copy of the Cooperating Agreement entered into by the cooperating units of government. The Agreement should designate the applicant that will serve as lead recipient should the project be funded.

Initial Project Assessments and Applications for the Equity program must be submitted in conformance with the format and applicable instructions specified by the OneGeorgia Authority.

413-1.08 Review of Applications

Upon receipt of an Initial Project Assessment under this program, staff will review the Initial Project Assessment for eligibility and conformance with basic threshold criteria. Potential applicants will then be notified regarding general eligibility and perceived competitiveness based on the information they provided. For Assessments that indicate potentially eligible and competitive projects, the Authority and/or DCA may provide limited technical assistance to would-be applicants; however, in no event will the Authority or DCA actually assist in the actual writing of an application.

Upon receipt of an application, the application shall be reviewed using the rating and selection factors specified in Section 413-1.09 of these regulations, using any additional and/or supplemental information, data, analyses, documentation, commitments, assurances, etc. as may be required or requested by the Authority or DCA for purposes of evaluating, rating, and selecting applicants under this program. Applications that contain insufficient information or documentation to be evaluated and rated may be returned to the applicant for further information.

Staff may conduct site visits and hold discussions with applicants and proposed sub-recipients for the purposes of confirming and evaluating information contained in the Initial Project Assessment or Application. Staff may also consult with other appropriate government and private entities in the course of reviewing and evaluating information contained in Project Assessments and/or Applications.

The scores obtained for the various selection factors will be totaled and applicants with scores of at least 325 points that meet all appropriate funding criteria that conform to the objectives of O.C.G.A. 50-34, as amended, and that can be carried out in compliance with all applicable state or local law, regulations or requirements will be funded until funds are exhausted. In cases where fundable applications exceed available funds, the applicant with the highest number of jobs benefiting low and moderate income persons will be given priority.

413-1.09 Rating and Selection Criteria

Threshold Requirements (In order to be rated and reviewed, an application must meet all threshold requirements identified below):

  • The application is from an eligible applicant;
  • The project takes place within a rural county or a county with a population of less than 500,000 that shares a border with a rural county which has endorsed the project and also demonstrates sufficient quantifiable public benefit (as defined in Section 413-1.07(7) to the rural county to qualify as a regional application;
  • The proposed use of funds are for eligible activities and will be carried out in a manner consistent with the state constitution, state law and in accordance with the applicant’s (or sub-recipient’s) enabling legislation and authority; and;
  • The proposed activities are consistent with local and regional plans developed under the provisions of the Georgia Planning Act and the Service Delivery Strategies developed in accordance with O.C.G.A. 36-70-1 et seq.

Demographics (100 Points Maximum): On an annual basis, demographic scores will be calculated for each county in the state. For purposes of assigning a demographic score for applications submitted by multiple applicants or an authority made up of multiple entities, the highest score from the group of counties which has endorsed the project or are members of the regional authority will be used. Applications will be rated and scored against each of the following demographic factors as calculated by the Department of Community Affairs using the most recent population, poverty and income estimates:

Demographic Need – total population: Counties will be compared in terms of their total population level. Counties with a population less than 10,000 will receive 45 points. Counties with a population between 10,000 and 19,999 will receive 35 points. Counties with a population between 20,000 and 29,999 will receive 30 points. Counties with a population between 30,000 and 39,999 will receive 25 points and counties over 40,000 in population will receive 20 points.

Demographic Need - percent of people in poverty: Counties will be compared in terms of the percentage of population below the poverty level. Counties with an overall poverty rate of 20% or greater shall receive 40 points. For counties with a poverty rate less than 20%, scores will be obtained by dividing each county's percentage of persons in poverty by the highest percentage of persons in poverty of any applicant in the group and multiplying by 40.

Demographic Need - per capita income: Counties will be compared in terms of their per capita income. Scores will be obtained by dividing each County's per capita income into the lowest per capita income of any county in the group and multiplying by 15.

Project Feasibility (120 Points Maximum): Applications will be awarded "feasibility" points according to the following scale: poor: 0.0 points; below average: 30.0 points; average: 60.0 points; good: 90.0 points; excellent: 120 points. The criteria outlined detailed in 413-1.09 (3) a-h will determine where on the "Feasibility" Scale an application ranks:

  1. The description of the proposed project and activities are clearly described and documented;
  2. The project will generate positive net public benefits as quantified by an acceptable public cost-benefit analysis, model or methodology;
  3. The responsibilities for carrying out each activity are clearly ascribed to a participating entity and each entity has firmly committed in writing to carry out its part;
  4. Project readiness concerns are addressed (as applicable): i)engineering/architectural/environmental, ii)infrastructure/utility access issues, iii)specific job and investment commitments, iv)commitments to fund operations/maintenance, etc.; v)other public and private sector investors are committed and ready to invest, vi)all needed real property is acquired or under option, vii) environmental, regulatory and liability concerns addressed (phase 1, government permits, etc.), viii)administrative capacity is adequate, and ix)(soft projects) professional service providers have adequate credentials and work history, etc.;
  5. For regional projects, provisions are in place for joint ownership and revenue or cost sharing;
  6. Underwriting analysis (as applicable) has determined that the: i) organizational status of benefiting entity is documented and reputable; ii) development entity ’s performance and standing is secure in the following areas: capital management, debt capacity, management character and experience, collateral value, economic and market conditions; iii) development entity’s proposed development or business plan uses reasonable assumptions; iv) development entity’s proposed development team (developer, contractor, property managers, syndicator, etc.) has a successful record of accomplishment; and v) proposed business plan, marketing strategy and proforma are realistic; and vi) the development entity will be able to repay the OneGeorgia assistance (as applicable);
  7. Project costs are verified through original source documents, architectural and engineering reports or certified appraisals; and
  8. Applicant certifies that project complies (or will comply) with all applicable federal, state and local law and regulations.

Project Impact (110 Points Maximum): Applications will be awarded "Impact" points according to the following scale: poor: 0.0 points; below average: 27.5 points; average: 55.0 points; good: 82.5 points; excellent: 110.0 points. In order to determine where on the "impact" scale a project ranks the following criteria will be analyzed:

  • The number of jobs to be created or retained;
  • The quality of jobs to be created or retained;
  • The amount of OneGeorgia and total state assistance per job created or retained;
  • The amount of new private leverage;
  • The amount of new and/or retained taxes to be generated; and
  • The improvement of regional competitiveness through the project’s implementation and/or the delivery of project financing through the utilization of regional authorities, regional research organizations, regional business incubation entities, and collaboration with private investment and lending organizations into underserved markets;

Program Strategy (110 Points Maximum): Applications will be awarded "Strategy" points according to the following scale: poor: 0.0 points; below average: 27.5 points; average: 55.0 points; good: 82.5 points; excellent: 110.0 points. In order to determine where on the "strategy" scale a project ranks the following criteria will be analyzed:

  • The benefiting entity is willing to back its commitments by entering into a legally binding agreement with the Authority that provides appropriate covenants for the delivery of proposed public benefits and acceptable security for the Authority’s financing and repayment provisions or sanctions should promised benefits not occur;
  • The proposed project will result in the enhancement of the workforce through job training, skill upgrades, education, etc.;
  • The proposed project is likely to lead to indirect local and regional impact by: i) attracting related development/investment; ii) supporting/enhancing local or regional development strategies and priorities; and iii) supporting/enhancing local or regional institutions and quality of life;
  • Financial and programmatic alternatives have been considered for the proposed project and eliminated;
  • The proposed project supports the overall objectives of the OneGeorgia Authority and supports the state’s development strategy for: i) rural development; ii) targeted industries and sectors; iii) tourism development; iv) environmental preservation; and v) regional impact;
  • For non-construction projects, no similar studies, plans or documents have been produced in the last ten years, and if they have, they have been used to the extent possible and/or are in need of updating or expanding; and
  • The project represents an innovative approach to the development and retention of employment opportunities in rural Georgia.

Regional Bonus (Maximum of 100 Points): Applications will be awarded regional bonus points and can receive larger grant amounts as described in section 413-1 .10(1) based upon a project’s demonstration of significant and quantifiable regional cooperation or impact using the criteria outlined below:

  1. "Regional Cooperation"(60 Points)-The proposed project is a regional initiative that evidences either: a) significant multi-jurisdictional cooperation through ownership by a development authority comprised of multiple jurisdictions or two or more counties; or b) a revenue and cost sharing agreement or other intergovernmental agreement by two or more counties; or c) a revenue and cost sharing agreement or other intergovernmental agreement by multiple jurisdictions that results in regional impacts, benefits, or service delivery. and/or
  2. "Regional Impact"(40 points)-The proposed project will result in significant and quantifiable public benefits and impacts in multiple rural counties. The benefits must meet or exceed one of the following thresholds: a) a substantial net increase in employment or employment opportunities (with BEST qualified jobs); b) a substantial net increase in the tax-base or opportunities for public revenue generation; c) a substantial increase in either educational opportunities, job training programs, workforce development or business incubation and development opportunities.

The criteria in this rule (413-1.07) are designed to assist the OneGeorgia Authority and/or its agent in making a decision and only constitute minimum standards. Additional factors may be considered depending on the nature of particular projects and their relative merit compared to competing proposals and depending on the availability of funding at the time of application. The decisions made by the OneGeorgia Authority shall be final and conclusive.

413-1.10 Awarding of Funds

  1. Award limits will be based on the number of counties supporting a particular project
    • One County – Maximum of $200,000 per project
    • Two Counties – Maximum of $300,000 per project
    • Three or more – Maximum of $500,000 per project
  2. Award limits set at $1,000,000 per project where the project: (a) evidences support by a multi-county development authority where at least one of the participating counties is a directly eligible county; and (b) a revenue/cost sharing agreement or other intergovernmental agreement between two or more counties is executed; and (c) where the project will result in regional impact and economic benefits for at least one directly eligible county. For a better understanding of what constitutes a multi-county project, please refer to Regional Bonus described under 413-1.09(6).
  3. Limits may be waived upon recommendation of DCA Commissioner and approval of Authority Director; or upon recommendation and approval of Authority Director.