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Hall leaders hope state keeps film tax credit

County has seen interest from entertainment industry

POSTED: March 3, 2011 12:21 a.m.

Hall County leaders hope momentum continues to build after the area landed a few TV and film projects thanks to state tax incentives aimed at the industry.

Now, state lawmakers are considering whether to continue the tax credit.

On Tuesday, film industry representatives implored the House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism to preserve the credit, citing the many investments and jobs the industry has returned to Georgia as a result.

In its January report, the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness recommended eliminating the credit along with several others as part of its effort to overhaul Georgia's tax code.

In the report, the committee wrote, "The Film Tax credit has played a role in substantially increasing the number of film and television productions in Georgia; however, it is unclear if the revenues created by the additional productions actually exceed the cost the state tax credits provided. With the exception of some permanent jobs and infrastructure that have been created in Georgia around this industry, generally the jobs involved in this industry last only as long as the filming."

Stacey Dickson, Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau president, said since the incentives, Hall County has seen interest from the industry and even served as a one of the filming locations for the recently released "Hall Pass" starring Owen Wilson.

"We're just now getting to the point where we're getting enough inquiries where we can possibly get a film project here in Hall County," Dickson said. "Reebok was here and did a commercial in the area recently with the Falcons. We have a reality fishing show that's coming. We just had an inquiry on a biographical feature film that's being done. Our goal is to get some projects filming here. We'd love to have a motion picture, but really a television series would be even better."

Dickson said the incentive provides potential opportunities to promote Hall County but costs nothing but time from the visitors bureau.

"We've seen what film can do for other communities like Savannah and Conyers and Covington," Dickson said.

"They're trying their hardest to look under every rock and make the state budget. I understand what they're going through. But I hope they will see the overall impact the film incentive brings to Gainesville outweighs the cost of providing that incentive to companies."

Among those who spoke to the committee Tuesday were representatives from the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

The CW series "Vampire Diaries" films in downtown Covington. As a result, the chamber reported that businesses on the downtown square are thriving and new businesses have cropped up as fans travel to the area to see where their favorite show is set.

Bryan O'Leary from NBC, which has made three films in Georgia recently, said those in the industry are puzzled as to why Georgia would consider ending its incentive program.

"This is one of the great economic development success stories," O'Leary said.

Tax consultant Warren Nimchuck told the committee that if the film industry was a single employer, it would be in the top 10 employers in the state with around 12,000 full-time jobs and many more part-time positions.

He warned lawmakers that the business is competitive and many other states and countries are vying for the film industry's attention.

"If you have another jurisdiction that provides a similar credit and you're providing something that's significantly less, your business essentially goes down to nothing," Nimchuck said.



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