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Friday, May 6, 2011 - 12:02pm

Bill Could Boost Convention Hotel

Updated: 6 years ago.
Chatham County officials are still reviewing plans for financing a proposed hotel near the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center on Hutchinson Island. County officials believe the hotel could boost the city's tourism-based economy. But some hotel owners are not sure about the financing. (photo CMMI Architects)

Governor Nathan Deal still is reviewing a bill that would give tax breaks to some tourism projects.

The state incentives could benefit a taxpayer-backed hotel.

The proposed hotel is near the Savannah International Trade Center.

Chatham County is considering backing the project with $50 million in bonds.

If the hotel fails, taxpayers would be on the hook.

Assistant Chatham County Manager Pat Monahan says, tax incentives could protect the county's investment.

"Although it doesn't make or break the project, it greatly enhances the comfort level that the county will enjoy from the additional coverage from any county exposure."

The bill was aimed at spurring tourism projects like cruise ship terminals and water parks but also included convention hotels.

"It helps move this community to the next tier level to attract conventions, which of course, mean additional room nights," says Monahan, referring to the proposed hotel and the potential for new tax revenue.

And Savannah isn't the only area that could qualify for the incentives.

Some Jekyll Island projects could meet the criteria.

The bill's supporters say the tax incentives eventually will pay off in new tax revenue.

But the Savannah project still needs the county's official blessing.

That won't happen until the county's convention center authority and elected commission formally approve the financing.

A round of meetings have been scheduled in recent months to make that happen.

The Savannah hotel has been contentious because some Savannah hotel owners believe the county financing amounts to an unfair advantage to a potential competitor.