The New Gold Rush – Georgia’s Rise as the Next Film Capital

There was a huge event that took place in the United States a few centuries ago that changed the pace of westward expansion.  It is known to us as the gold rush of 1849.  Hundreds of thousands of people from within the U.S. and worldwide, raced to northern California in hot pursuit of gold.  No – gold hasn’t been recently discovered in Georgia so everyone, please don’t start racing here for that.  However, we do have something equally as enticing as the gold rush of 1849 that just may pique your interest.

According to Film Production Capital’s website, Georgia is number two among the states for film making.  There is only one other state that surpasses it in rank in film production.  This blog places the top two states for film production side by side and compares each one’s eligibility and incentives in order to discover how Georgia can aim for the number one spot – and remain there.

 

Georgia

  • 20 percent base transferable tax credit
  • 10 percent Georgia Entertainment Promotion (GEP) uplift can be earned by including an embedded Georgia logo on approved projects and a link to http://www.tourgeorgiafilm.com on the promotional website
  • $500,000 minimum spend to qualify
  • No limits or caps on Georgia spend, no sunset clause
  • Both resident and non-resident workers’ payrolls and FICA, SUI, FUI qualify
  • No salary cap on individuals paid by 1099, personal service contract or loan out. Payments made to a loan out company will require six percent Georgia income tax withheld
  • Production expenditures must be made in Georgia to qualify from a Georgia vendor
  • Travel and insurance qualify if purchased through a Georgia agency or company
  • Original music scoring eligible for projects produced in Georgia qualify
  • Post production of Georgia filmed movies and television projects qualify
  • Development costs, promotion, marketing, license fees and story right fees do not qualify

 

Louisiana

  • Open to all motion picture production companies for the purpose of producing nationally or internationally distributed motion pictures.
  • Production company must be headquartered and domiciled in the State of Louisiana.
  • $300,000 minimum-spend required
  • Only work physically performed by residents and non-residents in the State of Louisiana and only tangible goods acquired from a source within the state qualify for the program.
  • 30% tax credit on qualified direct production Louisiana expenditures
  • Additional 5% tax credit for payroll expenditures to Louisiana residents
  • No annual cap
  • Tax credits may be used to offset income tax liability in Louisiana (corporate or personal), sold back to the State for 85% face value, or brokered on the open market.

 COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

Well, looking at these side by side, we can see that they both seem to be within the range of 30% for the tax credit but looking closer at Georgia and Louisiana’s minimum spend, this is a distinctive difference.  The biggest thing that stands out to me for Louisiana is that it seems to be all about protecting its residents by ensuring production is headquartered and domiciled in the state.  I’m not an economist but it seems to me that this could very well keep “robber baron” activity down.  Georgia is not too far behind with its protections by ensuring certain expenses occur within the state in order to qualify.  I also like that travel and insurance can qualify as long as you do business with a Georgia company.

 

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR GEORGIA TO BE NUMBER 1, AND REMAIN THERE?

Convergence

The number one thing that I believe will increase our positioning will be for film professionals to bring business here.  It is not enough to simply come here, film, and leave as it only weakens the economy.  There needs to be a commitment to living and doing business in Georgia in order to gain strong positioning – not fly by night wins for the sake of improving rank.

 

Drivers

Peripheral businesses must arise and help grow the industry.  The impact of industry growth can’t be felt if production studios come and film while the rest of us sit idly by.  Entrepreneurs and established businesses have to discover ways to drive business here that is associated with the growing industry in order to keep the interest of investors.

 

Research

More research will need to be done by the commission office and entertainment office in order to create a basis for analysis of industry trends as the industry grows.  This research should encompass Georgia trends and should also include other competitor markets and trends.

 

Reach

Film incentives should extend to those businesses which are not production companies but at least 80% of its business clientele and mission serves the industry.

So, can Georgia do it – can it get on top and remain there?  I certainly hope so.  What are your thoughts?

 


 

 

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A Salute to Georgia Film Vendors – RJR Props

 

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Here in Georgia, we love our growing film industry and to show how much we love and appreciate it, this month is dedicated to the people who make it possible:  our film vendors.  For this blog post, we salute RJR Props who has been a staple in Atlanta’s film community for about a decade now.  Rich Rappaport founded the company with the intention of using his extensive background experience to provide filmmakers with accurate props for their films.  RJR props has grown to become one of the largest prop providers in the metro Atlanta area.

Thank you Rich for joining us this week.  Rich, tell our readers what RJR Props is and what it means to Atlanta’s growing film community.

RJR Props is the ultimate source for amazing Props.  Nothing boring here!  We provide props for Television, Film, Music Videos, Conventions, shows and private events.  Where do you go when you need a full size commercial airplane interior to film? Or a real Airport TSA Security area?  Call RJR Props.  We also have working Elevator Props, Computer Rooms, Hospital & Medical Gear, High-Tech Security props. Working bomb disposal robot, Exotic Electronics, A Bank set with Vault, Safe Deposit Boxes, working ATMs and money. We have the most realistic legal Prop Money in the USA.  Our money has been featured in dozens of feature films & TV shows, and it has been seen in over than 1000 music videos by the top artists. We have a Vintage Computer collection with over 5000 pcs. Huge Weapons collections from medieval to flame throwers. A huge collection of News Cameras & Studio Cameras dating back from 1940 to present! RJR Props is now recognized as one of the top Props Suppliers of non-furniture props.  And our website has been recognized as one of the best for Props:  rjrprops.com.

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Your background is in medical, avionics, engineering, military and computers – in essence nothing related to the creative field.  What made you want to transition to the more creative world of film?

Having a wide background actually makes perfect sense. In this industry, we need to be experts in many fields.  Having a medical background means that we can make sure we provide the right medical props.  The Engineering helps us design the props. Military helps with our Military props including our Huey Helicopter, yes we have a Huey available!  And computers has been my speciality since the dawning of computer age.  I have 26 yrs experience in all of these fields, plus we have a talented crew with even more diverse skills, making it an essential part of our abilities.image

But I can’t take credit for transitioning into Film.  It wasn’t me. It was a blessing from our Creator.We were in the industrial computer business doing electronic design & repair for many years.  We started getting requests from the film industry to rent Mainframe Computers. But we never considered it.  One day a wonderful man named Bob Shelley walked in the door.  Bob is a world famous Special Effects master in Film & TV.  He asked for a rare item that we had.  We had that rare item, along with thousands of other rare pieces that we accumulated over the years. Bob was amazed with our “collection” and thankful that we were able to provide the piece. He recommended us for a number of other projects. I thank G-d every day for all our blessings, I thank G-d for sending Bob, and I thank Bob regularly!  I know it sounds a bit odd, but I really am very thankful!

Do you provide customized prop options for clients?

Yes, we do provide customized props. We help design a wide variety of amazing props from Computers to Exotic Electronics.  In the upcoming feature film “Sully” starring Tom Hanks which was directed by Clint Eastwood, we were asked to design the cockpit electronics for Captain Sully’s Plane. We collaborated with the Set Dec and Lead Man to come up with an amazing cockpit set.  A few months ago we were commissioned to do custom designed prop money for fashion designer Alex Wang, for his 10th anniversary bash in NYC, which was topped of with a huge money drop.  It was great seeing Lady Gaga, Nikki Minaj and others throwing our money around!  Recently, a famous actress directed her first feature film.  We were commissioned to make a unique one of a kind piece for her desk in her LA office.  In feature films, the Director, Set Decorator or Prop Master usually decides what a piece will look like. However, many times we are asked to create it.  We were asked to provide a variety of props for Madam Secretary, Chicago PD and other shows recently. We have built a trust with them, and they often give us artist license do prop designs as we see fit.  Other times we collaborate together, but always it looks absolutely exceptional.

Where do you see your company 5-10 years from now as the film industry continues to boom?

Where do I see us in 5-10 years?  Older!  But seriously, we are getting better and better every day.  We continue to bring diverse experienced people to make our company stronger and better every day.  We are adding more amazing Props and focusing on the areas that we are asked to grow.  We can’t predict the future.  It’s all in G-d’s hands.  Please G-d, in 5-10 years we can see an even better future, more diversified Props House, new engineering capabilities, and specialization in playback. In a nutshell, we will be able to make every production look even better.  But we all have to do our part also.

The Film industry brings $6 BILLION a year to Georgia.  It gives jobs to tens of thousands of good people, and revenue to other companies like: restaurants, dry cleaners, etc.  But our industry is based on with how we vote: the politicians that control the taxes. If we vote for politicians who will continue low taxes and incentives, the industry will be safe.  Jobs will be safe.  However, if we vote for the wrong politicians who want to raise taxes and kill incentives, the industry will pack up and leave.  The film industry is here for 1 reason: Money.  It costs less to film here.  Some politicians like to raise taxes, and some realize that lower taxes attract businesses and the film industry.  We all need to vote for the right politicians. Together, we can all help make this industry amazing!  I hope this gave some great insight into the film industry!  Call RJR for your next production at (404) 349-7600 or check us out at rjrprops.com  We look forward to helping you in your next Film, TV show, Commercial or Music Video!

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A Salute to Georgia Film Vendors – Craig Miller Productions

Craig Miller founder of Craig Miller Productions in Atlanta, Georgia

This week we continue our salute to Georgia Film vendors with Craig Miller of Craig Miller productions.  His company has been an integral part of the Atlanta film community for over 30 years and with the outstanding growth of the industry, we hope to continue to see his film production company thrive.

Thank you for joining Reel Focus this week, Craig.  Your company has been in the local Atlanta area for many years.  Let’s take a walk through memory lane and have you tell our readers what it was like to establish and run your company, especially at a time when film production wasn’t as popular as it is now in Atlanta.

Craig Miller Productions was founded in 1985.  We specialize in commercials, high end corporate communications and entertainment.   We started out in tourism with Callaway Gardens 31 years ago and this year we  released the new Georgia Tourism Campaign.  Tourism is a part of what we do.  We have had The Coca-Cola Company as a client for 28 years.  From that relationship we developed connections with UPS, The Weather Channel, Novelis, AGCO, Acuity Lighting, Delta and others.  In the commercial world we worked with Fitzgerald and Company, Austin Kelly, McCann-Erickson and Vitro.  Work in these arenas and the occasional film kept production companies in the 80’s and 90’s busy.  It also maintained our crew base.

Who are some of the big names in the industry or big film projects that your company has worked on?

Charlton Heston – Regan Documentary, Tim Burton –Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny Cash – Tourism Featured Presentation, Grant Hill – Coca-Cola Commercial, Masters Golf Tournament – Seven Years, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Dreyfus – Coca-Cola movie trailer,  Atlanta Summer Olympics, Vancouver Winter Olympics, Zac  Efron, Mike and Nick, Survivor’s Remorse, 

What are your specialties and why should individuals or companies choose you for their production needs?

We see the big picture.  Companies come to us with a challenge, we study it and provide a resolution.

What’s in store for the next 30 years for Craig Miler productions?

We will be producing features, growing home grown creative and educating the next generation of great filmmakers.

 


 

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A Salute to Georgia Film Vendors – iZotope

izotope-logo-url-white

As I said before and I can’t say it enough, we love our growing film industry here in Georgia and to show how much we love it, Reel Focus has dedicated the month of May to Georgia film vendors who help make film possible here in Georgia.  As we round out the month of May, we pay homage to another great household name in film production – iZotope.

Tell Reel Focus readers what iZotope does for its clients both for film production and non-film production.

iZotope is an audio technology company. We develop professional audio software solutions for every stage of the audio post production workflow. RX Audio Editor is our most well-known product within post production. It’s the industry standard for repairing and enhancing your production audio. RX actually won an Emmy Award in 2013 for its technical achievements. It’s important for us at iZotope to deliver solutions throughout our entire product line that enable our users to ultimately produce higher-quality productions.

iZotope-RX5-Audio-Editor-box

What sets iZotope apart from other industry leading sound editors?

At iZotope we put a lot of value in keeping connected with the end users of the industry. We spend a lot of time learning and understanding what tools can improve the type of work they are doing, whether they are individual contributors such as freelancers or folks working on the top films of the year. Establishing these kinds of partnerships keeps us focused on solving their top challenges and problems they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

We focus our solutions for post production in two major categories. The first is improving the speed of their audio workflows. We want to free up time to spend on creative tasks or simply starting your next project sooner. Our other focus is developing innovative, groundbreaking technologies to improve audio quality quickly and easily, in a way that no other products provide. For example, being able to remove/reduce noises, distortions, plosives, reverb…or match the ambience or EQ from some production audio to another recording.   

We also put a lot of effort into educating folks at all levels of experience on how to get the best results at any stage of their audio productions using different techniques and approaches. We provide a lot of free resources online for folks to learn about these techniques at  https://www.izotope.com/en/learning/post-production/.

Tell us some of the big names that you have worked with in film and entertainment.

Some of the more well-known facilities we’ve worked includes ESPN, NFL Network, Warner Brothers, Disney, Skywalker Sound, and NBC Universal. Our products have been used in feature films like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as well as Captain America and Ant-Man. In television, some of the bigger names include Game of Thrones, Entourage, Deadliest Catch, House of Cards, Orange is The New Black, Daredevil, Dexter, The Good Wife, Glee, Lost…the list goes on and on!

For those who are in sound engineering or want to become sound engineers, can you provide pointers on how they can develop their talent and their portfolio?

It’s important to have reference mixes to compare your mixes to. If you find a mix you think sounds great, keep it somewhere you can easily access. Reference mixes can provide great guidance on where to take your own mix. They’re also good reality checks for the times you get too involved in the minutia and lose sight of the mix as a whole.

Another pointer is to learn your tools inside out. Time is money in post production, and every second counts. Key commands and other shortcuts are great for speeding up your workflow—learn and use them!

Develop your critical listening skills with ear-training tools. The more familiar your ears are with the frequency spectrum, the quicker you’ll be able prescribe solutions for mix issues. There are many free ear-training tools online, including iZotope’s Pro Audio Essentials course.

Participating in user groups and other industry organizations is a great way to network and build connections. Finally, get paid for your work! We’ve all done the free job for “exposure” at some point, but the pay you accept can reflect on your confidence and pride in your own work. Charge what you believe your time is worth.

izotope-rx-5-audio-editor

 

 


 

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Writer’s Guild of America-East on Developing Signatories in Georgia

 

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If you are an avid Georgia film supporter, then you already know that there is a lot of growth taking place in Georgia with regard to film production.  So much growth is taking place that Georgia is often referred to as the ‘Hollywood of the South.’  The spotlight has been on us for several years but critics challenge that  Georgia is no more than the latest fly by night sensation in film that will most likely meet with the same fate as states like North Carolina or Louisiana.  This could become a reality if local film supporters don’t come up with out-of-the-box ideas that could strengthen the film community in Georgia.

A game changer for Georgia to remain relevant and to effectively compete with California and New York in the film industry would be to create strong, stable writing communities in Georgia that support the local film industry.  One way to begin to laying the foundation for strong writing communities is to begin to grow local writing talent and to attract more writing professionals to Georgia.  This week, Jason Gordon, Director of Communications at the Writer’s Guild of America-East, shares with Reel Focus readers what it means to be a part of the Writer’s Guild and how to start establishing and sustaining professional writing communities in Georgia through developing signatories.

First tell our readers what the Writer’s Guild is and how important it is in the world of film and television.

The Writers Guild of America, East is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government.

Tell us what a signatory is and how important it is for a company to be an authorized WGA signatory as opposed to not being a signatory.

A signatory company is an employer that has signed a collective bargaining agreement with WGA. Any company intending to employ a Guild member or option, or purchase literary material from a Guild member must become signatory to the Guild’s Minimum Basic Agreement, the collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that covers screen, television, and new media writers.

Signatory companies range from the industry’s biggest film studios to independent production companies, and broadcast networks to webisode production companies.

Becoming a signatory means that you can hire professional writers. WGAE members can only work for companies that are signatory to Guild contracts.

I’m sure you have heard of the growth of film in Georgia. Would the presence of more professional writing signatories improve the local film production market?

More signatories in Georgia means more opportunities for Georgia’s film production community to work with Writers Guild members, who are the gold standard in writing for the screen and television.

Can you conclude with a step-by-step process on who should consider becoming a signatory and how to become a signatory.

The process to becoming a signatory is extremely easy. Simply fill out the WGAE’s 2014 MBA signatory application by clicking the link below:

WGAE’s 2014 MBA Signatory Application

 


 

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Ric Reitz On Strengthening Georgia’s Positioning in the Film Industry

Ric Reitz

 

In 2008, Ric Reitz said this in response to the new film legislation:

“House Bill 1100 is a key piece to the puzzle in sustaining Georgia’s entertainment industry for the long haul. It will provide many new jobs for Georgians, improve the state’s entertainment infrastructure, and grow Georgia’s indigenous companies.”  

Reading these words should send chills through all of Georgia’s film professionals considering how far the film industry has come since 2008. His prediction rings true because as a result of this bill, Georgia has surpassed all of its competition outside of New York and California.

Georgia is on top now but many skeptics are waiting for the moment when this trend will pass, leaving the dreams of local film professionals dashed and the economy of Georgia broken. Some skeptics believe that just like North Carolina, film production in the South will not last. They believe that all of the film production taking place here will eventually come to a halt and the only thing that will remain will be the popular film tour companies.

Of course, not everyone is as pessimistic.  There certainly is an aura of pride and hope uniting many film professionals in the state of Georgia.  There is also a deep passion for making the film industry more than just a short-term anomaly. Continued success will take more than just the passion of local film talent and wishful thinking, however.

HB 1100 was a step in the right direction several years ago but just a little more effort is necessary to stabilize this industry enough to compete effectively with the bigwigs of the industry and even woo them to support the efforts taking place here.

Everyone within the industry who is keeping a very close eye on the developments here, know that California and Georgia have more in common than just the wildfires that were blazing here a few months ago.   Film is becoming a large chunk of Georgia’s economy as it has been in California for many decades.  Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is definitely watching Georgia’s progress and wants California to recover its losses due to runaway production; but, in a recent interview with NPR he insists that “It’s not necessarily us declaring war on Georgia, but it’s us fighting back.” 

Nine years after its inception, Georgia’s film production incentives are facing some fierce competition from outsiders which begs the question “Is it strong enough to compete with and sustain a fair share of the market as it stands?” Or, “Can it be strengthened to make the tax credits even sweeter than those recently introduced in California. 

Georgia presently holds a strong place in the overall entertainment industry. Not to mention, it has recently held down the number one spot in America for business development for several years now.  Most astonishing of all is the recent ranking as one of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s 21 “Best of the World” destinations for 2017.  Evidently, Georgia has a lot of hype supporting it being a great place to be but just what could strengthen its position in the film industry?

This week on Reel Focus, Ric Reitz will answer questions on how Georgia can continue its successful run and how the current incentives can be strengthened to give Georgia the competitive edge it needs to stay on top. 

Ric it is a great honor to have you on our blog and I want to thank you for not only your wonderful achievements in Hollywood but also for your magnificent work in helping to grow the film industry here in Georgia.  I want to begin by asking why do you think Georgia toppled all of its competition and became the number one state for film production outside of California and New York?

Thank you, it is my pleasure to respond.

Georgia’s recent success with entertainment production was the result of a “perfect storm.” When the cost basis of the industry shifted and opportunity space opened, we were able to move quickly and professionally with a focused grassroots effort, which was already organized.  Whereas other U.S. states outside of California and New York have their pluses and minuses when it comes to fostering growth and employment within the entertainment industry vis-à-vis tax incentives, Georgia had and has many extra advantages.  Georgia had a pre-existing production base.  Few remember that prior to tax incentives Georgia had a great deal of production, right up to the Olympics; from Film/TV projects to commercials to corporate films, and therefore, post-incentives, we did not have to start from scratch on a cast, crew or infrastructure basis.  We have a temperate climate with four distinct weather seasons and diverse topography, which is ideal for broad storytelling and doubling locations.  We have the world’s busiest airport, which allows direct and inexpensive access to the world, which can’t be underestimated.  When it came to politically expediency, much of our production was and is generated around the state capitol of Atlanta, so it was easier to tell our story.  

Thankfully, we have received great political support from both sides of the aisle right up to the Governor’s office since Day One.  We are not geographically close to the other major centers of production, which means we have not suffered from what I call the “black hole effect” of having resources being drawn into the top pre-existing markets by proximity.  The cost of living is favorable.  Our incentive currently has no sunset clauses, no maximum budget thresholds or residency requirements.  And, Southern Hospitality does go a long way.  Simply, Georgia has created a great opportunity to save money for producers and provided a friendly place for production people to live and work.  It can be argued that other markets offer higher incentives, but I believe Georgia’s overall value is the best. 

 

Clearly, your prediction 9 years ago was prophetic.  Do you still think that your prediction is relevant in Georgia’s current film market?

Absolutely.  Soundstage, studio, vendor, talent and crew infrastructure has skyrocketed.  You’ll find that most other states outside of California and New York have not dug their roots deep enough to sustain large-scale production long-term.  Georgia has, and a lot of that is not even directly incentivized.  A quick chat with the Georgia Film Office and you will discover that the number of permanent industry residents, fixed location vendors and suppliers has jumped over 500% in less than ten years.  Criticism of all new and evolving markets has been largely based on not having a deep enough bench of experienced professionals for the volume of new production.  That is changing rapidly in Georgia, but it still takes time.  So, we encourage a measure of patience.  Keep in mind, it was never our goal to topple LA or NYC, but to become partners in the industry and ground as much international production in the states as possible. We are not about heavy-handed competition with other U.S. markets.  We’ve simply created great options and an open mind.  And I believe this environment has benefited not only the studios and indie producers, but national talent and crew as well.

 

When film was booming throughout the entire South a few years ago, there were critics who wondered how long this fad would last, particularly in Louisiana, because critics see the film incentives as a means for outsiders to come in and take advantage of the incentive; however, this doesn’t benefit the economy over the long-term.  In some ways, these critiques were right and we do see that some production throughout the South has fizzled.  In order for Georgia’s production to avoid becoming a part of this fizzle, tell us what ways do you think that the current incentive can be improved to not only grow the industry but sustain it within Georgia.

Whenever and wherever new industries are developed you will find criticism.  Outside competition needs to criticize and, internally, people in unrelated industries want the same type of attention for their own agendas, so beware of the source. 

New industries take time to develop, and this is an important new industry.  One only needs to read a Georgia study on key industries of the future to know that Media is one of those industries upon which economies of the future are built.  Of course, we need outside resources to kick-start the next phase of our development, because the process of training people to the level of professional ability required to pull off great entertainment production is slow.  Yes, we have imported people, at first on a temporary basis, but many have stayed, which was always one of our goals. Get ‘em in.  Get ‘em to stay.  Believe it or not, competition improves our indigenous talent, which eventually gets them more work.

As for the long-term, the migration of experienced talent and crew will continue.  The Georgia University and Technical College System, and the Georgia Film Academy will churn out our own next generation professionals, and we want them to stay.  We want to attract and retain great young minds that may eventually start their own businesses, or develop new technologies that will generate new economies.  When a creative vacuum is filled, you never know what you’re going to get, but history has shown that jobs in the creative industries create their own special synergy.  Action leads to more action.  This is not wishful thinking.  It is already happening.  Further, large, in-state investments have already begun with associated businesses that are not directly incentivized.  Hardscrabble communities are being reborn, and new brick-and-mortar developments are springing up, including a 350-home residential and mixed-use community near Pinewood Studios Georgia.  All predicted.  And all within the scope of our business plan.

Beyond the occasional incentive tweak to streamline the efficiency of the Georgia program, it is neither time to restrict the migration of outside talent, nor place quotas on production for the hire of inexperienced local talent.  The organic growth of our local industry and free market competition will handle the rest.  You will also find that LA and NYC are not restrictive in this sense, which is how their talent pools have grown so deep over time.  There is a lesson to be learned there.  I understand some locals feel they are being left out, but this is more about developing reliable and bankable skill sets than entitlement.  One can’t say that the opportunities aren’t here, so we have to up our game.

To sum things up, Georgia is on track.  Elements are in place to sustain the Georgia business model into the future.  Still, but we can’t take anything for granted. That is the nature of all things.  If anything, let’s find ways for this market to develop its own signature, its own stories, and its own technologies.   If anything, that is where new strategies need to be targeted.

 


 

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