Georgia governor hopes new tax break will lure defense jobs

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — A major defense contractor hosted Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday to thank him for a new tax break that could be worth more than $50 million.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed and the Republican governor signed a law that would expand the tax breaks available to “high-impact aerospace defense” projects in hopes of aiding a bid for new defense projects at the Marietta plant operated by Lockheed Martin Corp.

Then-Rep. Bert Reeves told lawmakers at the time that Maryland-based Lockheed Martin hoped to bid to build all or part of a new generation of military jets at the Cobb County plant, which opened in 1943 to build bombers and was taken over by Lockheed in 1951. Today the 4,500-employee complex builds C-130J military transport aircraft and assembles fuselages for F-35 fighters that are finished elsewhere.

Lockheed Martin officials were less specific on their plans for the future Thursday, saying they hoped to bid for any new defense work that would bolster employment in Marietta. They and Kemp touted the company’s addition of 150 employees over the last year at a branch of Lockheed’s “skunk works” development team.

Kemp said future Lockheed projects could add as many as 3,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in investment.

The law allows Lockheed Martin to claim up to $100 million in state income tax credits against investments, as long as it invests at least $800 million, as well as to claim Georgia’s job tax credits for any new jobs it creates. Before Kemp signed the law, Lockheed would have been limited to either $50 million in investment tax credits or the job tax credits.

“It helps us to compete to win those contracts and the economic impact that comes back and the residuals that you get off of that, with other manufacturing and residual jobs, is just incredible,” Kemp told reporters afterward.