Updated:ATLANTA,None — Developers want to transform the top of a mountain in Bartow County into the world's largest indoor ski slope, but they said they need the governor's signature to do it.
Developer Steve Winters said he's ready to build The Falls at Vineyard Mountain, a billion dollar indoor ski resort on top of Vineyard Mountain. The mountain sits nestled between Allatoona Lake and Interstate 75, just across the water from Red Top Mountain State Park. Winters said the resort will have multiple indoor ski and snowboard runs, along with hotels, restaurants, an amphitheater and green space. It will also house retail shops and homes, he said.
"The Atlanta mega region has 22-million people in it," Winters told Channel 2's Richard Elliot, explaining why he chose Vineyard Mountain. "But we've also got 66 million cars a year going by the location, and we're going to give them a reason to stop and stay for more than a year."
But he said in order to make The Falls economically viable, he needs the state to give him a temporary 25 percent tax credit. Lawmakers have tried to give him that credit twice before. However, both times, Governor Sonny Perdue vetoed the bills saying they were too broad and that the fiscal costs to Georgia might outweigh the potential benefits. His office told Elliot the governor was worried the state might be giving away too much and could wind up subsidizing $250 million of that project.
"This would have an impact on the economy of Georgia that's beyond our belief," said bill sponsor Rep. Paul Battles of Cartersville. He said they've worked to tighten up the language in the bill, and he hopes that will convince the governor to sign it this time.
Winters guessed his project could bring 2,000 jobs to recession-ravaged Bartow County, though he said that number could be much higher when including construction workers and incidental job creation with nearby hotels and restaurants built around the resort. In a county where the unemployment rate is above 12 percent, that would be welcomed relief.
That's why Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown said he's behind the project.
"With double digit unemployment right now, that would be a huge boost," said Brown. "That would probably put a third of our people back to work that's been laid off."
At the Cartersville unemployment office, Kay Lee and Derrick Reed, are still looking for work 10 months after a rail car construction company laid them off. Reed thinks the Falls would mean much-needed work for a lot of people like him.
"I think it'll be great idea for the area of Cartersville," said Reed as he stood in the unemployment office parking lot. "Especially when the job I was working, like 1,500 employees got laid off. And that'd be great for the area."
But the governor's office isn't so sure that the project would create quite as many jobs as expected. That's why his office wants to take a closer, line by line look at the new bill before giving it the thumbs up.
Winters said once he gets the governor's approval and finishes rezoning issues, his crews can begin construction. He thinks, if everything goes according to plan, he could be finished by 2012.
"We can make this happen, if the governor signs the bill," he said." We've been working on this a long time, and we're ready to go."