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After six years of difficult deals, CEO of Fulton Development Authority retires

By Ben Brasch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

The chief executive of the Fulton County Development Authority announced on Tuesday that he is retiring.

Al Nash has led the board since 2014, and during that time it has given massive (and sometimes massively controversial) tax breaks to developers.

The 70-year-old Nash told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wants to spend more time with his wife and their four grandchildren. He will stay on until a new CEO is chosen, which he expects will happen by the end of the year.

“We’ve come a long way, and I’m sure they’ll continue,” he said.

Nash said he is proud of his tenure, which aside from all the deals includes a move toward more transparency. There are now fact sheets about deals made public before consideration by the board, and members use a tax analysis modeling tool developed by Ernst & Young.

The Authority has often been chastised as a rubber stamp for developers, or for paying to entice developers who want to build in already-booming parts of town.

The unelected board members OK bonds or approve tax abatement deals, meaning companies don’t have to pay a certain amount of taxes over a period of time. The incentives typically come in exchange for a promise of job creation or increased commerce, but take property tax revenue from schools and governments.

The Authority gave more than $352 million in tax abatements for 90 projects between 2014 and 2016, according to an AJC analysis. In that time, Invest Atlanta granted $93 million.

The companies that benefitted range from senior care homes and private schools to luxury apartments that some say gentrify economically disadvantaged areas.

“Real estate runs in cycles, and if you miss the cycle, and in some cases you don’t know when that’s coming back,” said Nash, adding that many critics of the agency don’t fully understand the reasons behind the board’s actions.

Many of the board’s deals have angered city and school leaders over the years. Last week, the Atlanta City Council unanimously voted for the Fulton development authority to stop issuing bonds within the city.

The Fulton native said he’s hoping to stay active in the community and serve where he can. He said he is proud to have worked alongside many talented county staff members.

“I’m not looking to find my next career,” he said. “ … I’m hopefully in the long fourth quarter.”