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Ga. county wins contest to land film studio, its 1,000 local jobs

| Saturday, March 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Georgia county beat out Pittsburgh and other regions competing for a $90 million film studio that would have created about 1,000 local jobs.

Medient Studios Inc. of Los Angeles will locate a studio and entertainment complex on 1,500 acres of Effingham County, Ga. Adjacent to Savannah, the county is giving the company a $12.5 million grant for site development, according to the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority.

“These things are very competitive,” said Ryan Moore, an authority project manager.

He said the state will provide Medient with incentives still being finalized.

“It's a game-changer for us,” said Moore.

His county and state for eight months pursued Medient, whose project is Effingham County's largest ever.

Founded in 2007, Medient has produced 14 movies and “several hundred live performance shows,” according to a securities filing.

Medient, however, posted no revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30, and only $150 for the preceding nine months, stated the filing. The company's independent accountants expressed “substantial doubts” about Medient's ability to operate as a going concern in the L.A. company's latest annual report.

Medient officials could not be reached.

Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, tried to lure Medient's project about six months ago when she met with company officials.

“It would have been nice to have,” said Keezer. “But we weren't able to come up with a good enough (incentive) package.”

Keezer said the state of Pennsylvania is handicapped by a $60 million annual limit on its film industry tax credit program that must be reauthorized each year. By contrast, Georgia has no cap on film industry tax credits.

“Pennsylvania's program has been out of money since before 2012. So without those incentives to bring people into Pennsylvania, no one's coming,” said Keezer.

She said more than 18,000 people in Pennsylvania depend on the film industry's full-time construction, transportation, and sound and film crew jobs.

In addition to Pittsburgh and Georgia, Medient scouted potential project sites in Michigan and New Mexico, said Keezer.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or tolson@tribweb.com.

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