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Tara Field may become site for film studio

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution this week allowing Executive Aircraft Storage, LCC, to use space at Tara Field, the county-owned airport, as a site for the production of movies.

According to the county's economic development director, Grant Wainscott, the move sets the stage for Tara Field to host the first movie-production studio in the Southern Crescent.

Wainscott said Executive Aircraft Storage will use three existing hangars it leases from the county as a production-studio site.

The board voted 4-1 (with BOC Chairman Eldrin Bell opposed) to allow use of the three hangars for stage and set production. The deal also includes other space on the property that would be used as a parking lot.

While not divulging what companies have expressed interest in moving into the site, Wainscott said the move is "client-driven" and represents a larger effort by the state to attract movie-production companies.

"We have great state incentives [for film makers], but the state is saying, now we need product," Wainscott said. "This is a great step in the right direction. Regardless of whether the client chooses this site, it positions Clayton and Henry to be in the movie business. The revenue and attention to Clayton and Henry will be tremendous, but now we can be part of a greater state effort to attract film to the state."

Wainscott said the new leasing agreement with Executive Aircraft Storage would generate an additional $80,000 a year in revenue for the county. According to the resolution passed on Tuesday, the leasing agreement is for "a period of up to twenty-four (24) months."

Commissioner Michael Edmondson said he believes the agreement will bring additional revenue to the county and increase "foot traffic and air traffic" at Tara Field.

"It can only be a benefit," he said. "It provides an opportunity for a business in a growing industry ... that can only impact our bottom line."

Bell, who voted against the agreement, said he didn't "know enough about" the project, or the potential risks involved, to agree.

"There are a number of legal implications," Bell said. "While I think we should take advantage of every economic opportunity ... I feel compelled to protect the taxpayers' dollars at every juncture."

In other business, the board voted unanimously to declare the county a "Recovery Zone." The designation, according to Wainscott, gives governments and private businesses throughout the county the ability to access $33 million in tax-exempt, low-interest bonds for "shovel-ready projects" meant to enhance the county.

Bobby Stevens, the bond allocation manager for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), said the U.S. Department of the Treasury allocated money for Recovery Zone Economic Development and Facility Bonds to various governments in Georgia through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

In order to use the funds, which are administered locally by the Georgia DCA, he said, it is necessary that areas declare themselves as Recovery Zones.

"Congress made all the allocations directly to certain governments in Georgia," Stevens said Wednesday. "Our role is very ministerial, to say, ‘If you aren't going to use all of the money, give it to someone else.' They're [Clayton County] doing exactly what we would like to happen. We would like them to issue the bonds. It's tax exempt financing, which means the borrowing cost is going to be lower to the user."

Stevens said projects worthy of receiving facility bonds include: hotels, motels, office buildings, warehousing and distribution structures, as well as other projects. Projects worthy of economic development bonds are classified as "government infrastructure projects," he said.

According to Wainscott, the county will begin taking applications from cities and companies wishing to leverage the county's allocation of economic development and facility bonds. He said the Clayton County Development Authority will be responsible for deciding which private companies receive $19.6 million in facility bonds, and the BOC will determine which projects qualify for $13.1 million in economic development bonds.

"It's about flexibility," Wainscott said, referring to the county's Recovery Zone designation. "We don't know which projects are fundable. If we make the whole county a Recovery Zone, we have a better chance to find projects that will allow us to use our allocation. It's really increasing our chances of finding the right types of projects that are fundable and sellable in the market place."

Wainscott said the Georgia DCA is asking the county to close on all of its bonds by June 30, 2010. "So, if these projects aren't able to be funded on time, the money can be allocated to other projects [in other parts of the state]," he said.

The federal government, he added, requires the county to allocate all of its bonds by Jan. 1, 2011.