By Randy Davidson, Georgia Entertainment

Georgia continues to lead as the most multilayered economy in the country. While other states mull over how to keep pace, Georgia business leaders continue to innovate on multiple fronts – life sciences, fintech, agriculture, renewable energy, and the creative industries. Georgia’s mutual fund of industry segments has allowed the state to hedge against inflation and interest rate fluctuations while creating stable job opportunities for citizens across the state.

Of note, Georgia has a huge lead in the creative industries sector. The state’s growing supportive stance of art, film, culture, music, game development and other creative industries has Georgia in an enviable position. We are in the ready position for the coming tidal wave of opportunity.

Originally from Leesburg, Georgia and graduating high school in 1989, I would have never dreamed of the opportunities in front of us now. Parents of my generation suppressed the creativity of their children because jobs were not available, pointing their children to traditional education and careers. I was encouraged to be a lawyer, doctor, accountant or learn a trade. The creative scene had a perceived negative stigma, mainly because these careers were nowhere to be found in Georgia.

Today, there is no more suppression of the creative mind. Technological advancements have decentralized and deconstructed entertainment and creative industries. They will never be the same again. Now there’s opportunity and high paying jobs right here in Georgia. Parents see this. You see this. There’s no stopping it. The creative tidal wave is coming.

Guess who’s ready? Georgia! Thanks to our Governors and elected legislators past and present, we are the most equipped economy in the country to ride this wave.

In 2023, we recognized the 50th year of Georgia being in the film industry – the result of Governor Jimmy Carter’s creation of the first ever state film commission in 1973. Fast forward to May 12, 2008 when Governor Sonny Perdue signed House Bill 1100. This bill, providing up to a 30% tax credit for qualified productions, catapulted Georgia to the premier place for filmmakers to produce projects. Adjustments and improvements during Governor Nathan Deal’s term and now with the support of Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia reaps billions of direct spending year after year that would otherwise be spent elsewhere.

In all practicality, Georgia’s film incentive program has enticed others outside the state to fund the strong Creative Economy we have today. Beyond film, the incentive has spurred growth in all areas of the creative arts.

The film tax incentive is a hotly debated topic among our elected leaders and especially during the legislative session.  To some, it’s either one of our smartest policy initiatives or considered a wasted use of Georgia’s tax revenue.

Personally, I believe the film incentive gets better with time driving further growth in all creative industry sectors. It’s also understood that communities with a vibrant creative and arts scene is a key part of successfully recruiting multinational and large conglomerates to locate in Georgia. The success of our overall economy goes hand in hand with the health of our creative industries.

Georgia Entertainment just completed a nine-city tour that started in June of 2023; the Georgia Unscripted Roadshow gathered local creatives and business owners together with legislators and government officials. These events were held in Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Warner Robins and Valdosta. Thousands attended the events including nearly 100 state legislators.

Regardless of age, race, gender, or socio-economic class, Georgians came out in full force to learn about the Creative Economy. While some of the communities we visited don’t participate largely in the incentivized direct spending of film productions, they see the future. Remote work trends, the uncapping of young creative minds and the awesomeness of Georgia is leading to a collision of opportunity.

Yes, program adjustments should be considered, and responsible policy is expected of Georgia’s elected representatives. However, I am hopeful that our leaders embrace a strong and supportive stance toward the state’s creative industries. Let’s back our youth. Let’s keep Georgia strong and invest further in arts and entertainment as an essential part of the state’s economic mix. The best is yet to come.

This article appears in the March/April 2024 edition of the James Magazine

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