The Industrial Building Authority’s director says the recent sale of its film studio basically recoups the county’s investment in it when seven years’ worth of lease and rent payments are factored in.
An Atlanta-based film production company bought the studio from the building authority for $4 million, said director Robert Crouse.
“We’re excited about it,” Crouse said of the sale of the tax-exempt facility. “We wanted that building on the tax rolls.”
But there also will likely be renewed calls from some for the building authority to give the sale proceeds to the Paulding County government which has been repaying the bond used to build the studio since 2016.
Crouse said his agency is consulting with its attorney about whether it is legally bound to give the money to the county or can keep the funds to reinvest in property to help recruit other taxable industries.
“We would like to invest that money,” Crouse said. “We would like to turn that $4 million into $8 million, and $8 million into $16 million.”
Swirl Recording and Film Inc. purchased the 78,000-square-foot Atlanta Film Studios Paulding County from the building authority after months of negotiations which essentially began last fall, Crouse said.
Swirl has leased the building since mid-2018 and used it for a number of productions, Crouse said.
“We really wanted them there,” he said.
Crouse noted the company has helped the local economy because it buys building supplies from local retailers and the hundreds it employs for its productions do business at area motels and restaurants.
Because of the current strong economic climate Crouse said “there are good reasons to reinvest at this time” because of the potential for attracting other companies to the county.
Those reasons did not exist early this decade but now are present, he said. Some companies are “chomping at the bit” to see what Paulding can offer, he said.
However, Paulding did not follow the lead of neighboring counties which chose to develop new industrial property and buildings that tax-producing companies later occupied.
“Communities all around us did that,” Crouse said.
As a result, Paulding has very little industrial property and buildings available compared to other neighboring counties like Douglas, he said.
The Paulding building authority formerly merged its functions with the industrial recruitment agency called Paulding Economic Development Organization and hired its director, Robert Reynolds, as building authority director.
However, the two agencies have split again and the EDO is reforming and hiring a new director following the recent departure of Reynolds, Crouse said.
As a result, the building authority has returned to serving as an entity that only invests in property that can be developed and resold to new employers, he said.
Crouse said he hoped the building authority can use the funds to allow it to locate land for another industrial park that has less underground rock and is cheaper to develop than other properties it owns.
“We want to invest wisely in a new industrial park,” he said.
Such a move would help support the reformed EDO and its new director in its recruitment efforts — and possibly lead to another tax-producing company investing in the county, Crouse said
“What the IBA is going to try to do is have product for that person to sell,” he said.
It recently transferred land it owned in Paulding Commerce Park on Bill Carruth Parkway to conveyor systems producer Interroll rather than offer tax incentives to convince it to expand its Hiram production facility in the same location, Crouse said.
The film studio sale ends seven years of building authority ownership and management of the facility it opened in 2012 amid the initial production boom following the approval of state film tax credits for film companies.
The building authority used about $5.5 million out of a total of $7.9 million in taxpayer-backed revenue bonds to build the studio after the Paulding Board of Commissioners approved the financing in March 2011.
The same bonds also funded construction of a water tower and hangar at the county airport.
The building authority then purchased a bank-owned industrial building and 11 acres just off Bill Carruth Parkway near WellStar Paulding Hospital in 2011.
It built two new 20,000-square-foot sound stages and renovated the existing building into mill space for set construction and offices for post-production editing. The 78,000-square-foot studio facility began operations in 2012.
The studio has been the location or production facility for a variety of movies and TV productions, including the Jackie Robinson biopic “42,” the 2015 remake of the classic comedy “Vacation,” and a reality competition TV show called “Fake Off.”
However, Paulding County began paying the bond after the building authority found it was not generating enough revenue from the periodic leases of the studio to make the payments.
County finance director Tabitha Pollard said Paulding County still owes more than $6 million on the bond issue.
The building authority made the payments on the bonds from 2011 until early 2015, when it began making only partial payments and the county filled in the gaps, she said.
The county government then began making the annual payment on its own in mid-2016 and continued making it in 2017 and 2018, Pollard said.