Senoia Enterprises receives economic development award

Senoia Enterprises President Scott Tigchelaar (center) received the 2013 Economic Development Award at the 2013 South Metro Development Outlook conference held Feb. 20 at the Ga. International Convention Center in College Park. Also pictured are The Collaborative Firm managing partner Michael Hightower (L) and Coweta County Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn who presented the award. Photo/Ben Nelms.

The annual South Metro Development Outlook conference was held Feb. 20 at the Ga. International Convention Center in College Park. Serving on the panel addressing metro Atlanta and Georgia’s burgeoning film industry was Senoia Enterprises President Scott Tigchelaar, whose company received an award for Outstanding Commitment to Economic Development.

Tigchelaar during the film industry segment of the day-long conference was joined by panelists such as Georgia Film, Music and Digital Entertainment Director Lee Thomas and Tyler Perry Studios location scout Jason Underwood.

Tigchelaar explained that Riverwood Studios, now Raleigh-Riverwood Atlanta, began operations in 1988. The studio wanted to be in metro Atlanta but outside the flight path of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, he said.

Tigchelaar noted the many changes that have occurred in Senoia in the past couple of decades, with a number of those changes due to the increasing presence of the television and film industry. Bringing the topic into current focus, recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of downtown businesses, he said. As recently as 2006 there were only six businesses open in downtown Senoia but by 2012 there were 49 businesses in the Main Street area, Tigchelaar said. Beyond that, there is a waiting list for retail establishments, he added.

“All this happened during the hardest economic times most of us have seen,” Tigchelaar said.

But attracting a movie or television production to a community takes more than the state’s current tax break that has proved very effective in stimulating the number film projects shot in Georgia. It takes a community willing to work with the production and a city council that understands that excessive amounts of red tape and fees can result in the production locating elsewhere. And that is where Tigchelaar offered a word of caution to communities wanting to attract the industry.

“(Cities and counties) can get greedy,” he said of permit fees and requirements that some localities put in place to bolster revenues. Senoia is not one of those communities. “Don’t get greedy. Don’t nickel and dime them. Even if they come, they won’t come back.”

Those words were significant given the amount of money spent by the industry when in a community. But it goes further than that, Tigchelaar added, explaining the tourism that both accompanies and follows filming, sometimes for years after the movie or television show is out of production, is a proven economic factor that continues to add to a community’s vitality.

Thomas in comments on the state of the film industry in Georgia said the state’s tax incentive program has greatly benefitted the economy since the law was enacted in 2005 and revised in 2008. Georgia is now third in the nation in filming, Thomas said, adding that the economic impact last year totaled $3.5 billion. Making the point, Thomas said there was one show filmed in Georgia in 2007 but there are 14 in production today and another 16 in preparation.

The award to Senoia Enterprises for Outstanding Commitment to Economic Development was presented to Tigchelaar by Coweta County Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn.