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Locals testify to keep film tax credits

Photo by Jake Wasikowski

Photo by Jake Wasikowski

COVINGTON -- Local Chamber of Commerce leaders joined representatives from production companies in urging state lawmakers to keep in place tax incentives for the film industry this week at the State Capitol.

Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall and Tourism Director Clara Deemer testified before the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee Tuesday afternoon on the benefits of the film industry to local communities.

Tax incentives initiated in 2005 by the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act are in danger of being stripped, per the recommendation of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness as it attempts to overhaul the state's tax system.

Deemer said Covington was the only Georgia community represented at Tuesday's hearing, which included testimony from representatives from Turner Broadcasting, NBCUniversal Studios and Tyler Perry Studios, among others.

Deemer and Hall talked about the impact of movie and TV productions, including "The Vampire Diaries," to the local economy. Deemer said they discussed the boost to tourism and sales tax revenues brought in by visitors, along with job opportunities for locals, such as police officers who get extra work as security on productions.

"This not only benefits us in the present, but we're still reaping the rewards of 'Dukes of Hazzard' and 'In the Heat of the Night' 30-plus years later," Deemer said in a follow-up interview.

If the tax incentives are cut, "This is going to hurt us in the long run. Talking about it has already hurt. Industry people are looking elsewhere," she said.

A 20 percent transferable tax credit is available for production companies that spend a minimum of $500,000 in the state on qualified productions and post-production expenses. An additional 10 percent credit is applied if a production company includes a Georgia promotional logo in the finished feature film, TV series, music video or video game.

The total value of production spending in Georgia increased more than 400 percent from 2007 through 2010, with annual production spending exceeding $600 million in 2010, according to a report.

About 350 productions were shot in Georgia in fiscal year 2010, with combined production budgets increasing from $647.6 million in fiscal year 2009 to $744.3 million in fiscal year 2010, according to a press release issued by the Governor's Office late last year.

Altogether, the industry's economic impact in the state in fiscal year 2010 came in at $1.33 billion, up from $1.1 billion the previous year. Georgia is now ranked No. 1 in the Southeast, and among the top five states in the nation for film and TV productions.