Fouts talks about movie industry impact
by Sarah Fay Campbell
The film and television industry has brought $160 million in direct tourist spending to Coweta County, and $4.68 million in local tax revenue, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.
Coweta County Administrator Michael Fouts shared facts and figures about the impact the industry has had on the county at Monday night’s meeting of the Coweta-Fayette Rotary Club, held at Senoia Coffee and Café.
The industry has also supported 1,720 local jobs. “It’s a tremendous amount of revenue for our community. The incentives are great. It’s just been a great opportunity for us here locally."
“It’s fitting to be in Senoia,” when discussing the impact, said Fouts, as the town has seen the most benefit from the film and television industry. “The Walking Dead” has been based out of Raleigh Studios just outside the city for the past three seasons, and downtown Senoia was a major location in season 3.
“The Walking Dead has created somewhat of a cottage industry… the shops here, just the influence they have brought has been tremendous,” Fouts said. “The walking tours, the stores, all the merchandise that is available, not only here but throughout the county."
In 2005, the Georgia General Assembly enacted the “Entertainment Industry Investment Act” to provide tax credits for those doing film and television projects in the state. In 2008, the act was enhanced, leading to the state becoming a top destination for filmmakers and television producers.
The incentives provide a base 20 percent income tax credit on the money filmmakers spend in the state. There’s an additional 10 percent credit available if film makers use the state’s logo in the production credits.
The film production companies can use those credits against their employee withholding or their state tax liability, or they can sell them to other Georgia companies with greater tax liability.
“There is going to be a market for buying and selling these tax credits,” said club member Jimmy Pace. “And the end of the day, it’s going to create a whole other bank of things we can buy and sell.”
The film industry had a $3.1 billion financial impact on the state of Georgia in 2012, Fouts said. And it’s considered to be a growth industry, especially with the construction of the massive Pinewood Studios nearby in Fayette County.
In 2010, Georgia began the Camera Ready Community program. Coweta County became certified Camera Ready, which included training of local staff. Last year, “we saw a need to establish film and video production guidelines,” Fouts said. The new ordinances “basically set guidelines as far as the rental of facilities and use of right-of-way. They allow us to work with our public safety agencies and the school system” and streamline notification of road closures.
The Lifetime cable television show “Drop Dead Diva” rented the 1904 Courthouse in downtown Newnan twice and brought a large number of people and an “enormous crowd,” Fouts said.
Private homes are also rented from time to time. “We don’t know the impact of that but we know they are here,” Fouts said. The county can’t quantify those financial impacts but "we know it has been great.”
Fouts also spoke on the impact the healthcare industry has had in Coweta.
“It’s been a major economic driver here in the last few years and Coweta County is currently striving toward becoming a healthcare destination,” Fouts said.
The healthcare industry in Coweta accounts for one in nine jobs, according to the West Georgia Economic Forecast. And between 2012 and 2013, the industry added 25 percent more jobs.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center, located in Newnan, began serving patients in 2012. CTCA is currently in the midst of a $48 million expansion project. “This has brought a tremendous impact,” Fouts said.
On a given week, “they reserve about 130 rooms in local hotels,” Fouts said. And “the volume of people that Cancer Treatment Centers has brought to the Coweta County Airport is tremendous.”
Piedmont Newnan Hospital’s new location, as well as the new medical plaza and Newnan Professional Center across Poplar Road are a big part of it as well, as is Ansley Park Health and Rehabilitation Center.
The Health South rehab hospital will be breaking ground soon. It will have a staff of 120 and will be an investment of $22 million.
All of the facilities, other than CTCA, are very near each other along Poplar Road and Newnan Crossing Boulevard.
Then, there is the proposed Newnan Behavioral Hospital. U.S. HealthVest hopes to open the hospital in the old Coweta General/ Piedmont Newnan Hospital facility on Hospital Road.
The state recently denied a Certificate of Need that is required to build new healthcare facilities. But U.S. HealthVest, with the support of Coweta County and the city of Newnan, are appealing the denial.
Health South was originally denied as well, but eventually received a Certificate of Need.
“It’s a great use for the facility,” Fouts said. “We feel like the community deserves this service.”
Fouts was asked what he thinks the chances are of the appeal being successful.
“We think it has a great chance,” Fouts said. “From what we understand, it’s moving to a committee. From there, it could go on to a legal battle.”
“I think some of the details can be worked out,” Fouts said. “We need this center."