Jim Pace of Group VI, a lead developer on the Pinewood Atlanta Studios project, spoke at a meeting of the Fayette County Issues Tea Party last week and described Pinewood Atlanta as "the most exciting project in the state."
The Kia plant in West Point has been mentioned as a standard to which Pinewood might be able to measure up in terms of economic impact. Pace doesn't believe that's an unrealistic standard.
"The number of businesses that are moving in here in addition to just the raw number of people that are going to be working here, I believe, will one day rival Kia in terms of total employment. I think it's that significant," Pace said.
It's tough, Pace said, to nail down exactly how many of the jobs will be permanent versus temporary, but he says the Pinewood facility in the United Kingdom offers an instructive example that suggests there will be a mix of both types.
"The secondary and tertiary impact on the economy is going to be amazing. [In the U.K.] there are 300 independent companies on the lot that stay there year round," Pace said. Another source of more steady jobs could be television production, which he said is part of the vision for Pinewood Atlanta. While television could provide "steady jobs," Pace says blockbuster movies bring "high dollar" jobs, even for positions like make up artists and hair dressers which are paid handsomely for work on a major film.
Talks are already underway to bring in the first production once the facility is opened in January. While Pace didn't reveal the name of the film, he did say it would be a "mega blockbuster" that would require somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,700 employees hired here in the states.
Ideally, those jobs will go to Fayette County and other nearby Georgia residents, but as it stands the level of trained workforce in the state is well below what will be needed at Pinewood Atlanta. That is why education and training are part of the larger Pinewood Atlanta vision, starting with the Rivers Elementary building which has been discussed as a central facility in which multiple local colleges and technical schools could offer courses and certifications.
As of now, Pace said the true plans for the Rivers building fluctuates all the time. If that mega blockbuster does come to town, the building will likely have to be used for office space to accommodate the production. As time goes on, the infrastructure around the studio should grow to include sufficient office space, allowing the Rivers property to be dedicated as an educational component. Part of that plan will likely include student housing, which Fayetteville is writing into its zoning for the property under the Planned Commercial District (PCD) zoning designation.
Ultimately housing of all kinds is a big part of the future picture, and Pace says one of the mary considerations he, county, and city officials have had is a careful management of the sorts of residential development that comes along with Pinewood.
"We've been very methodical with this. We've involved the elected officials in every major decision point. They've been marvelous to work with. They've been very clear with what they expect. They want certain things and I believe we can give them those things," Pace said, referencing in particular the expansion of the multi-use cart path system.
As for the hundreds of acres of land surrounding the actual studio site, Pace said a master plan commissioned from Historical Concepts in 2007 provides a good template for creating a little community with some appeal.
"We want it to have a cool factor to it, so people want to go there," Pace said. "Like a Senoia kind of feel. Senoia's got a lot of cache right now. People like Senioa, people want to go to Senoia."
In response to some questions, Pace also addressed some areas where Fayette County will likely have to rise to meet new demand. In particular, he said he and the other developers had been "working with hotel developers as fast and furiously as we can," in order to make them aware of the coming need for extended stay hotels especially. He said someone coming in to work for six to nine months would need the sort of accommodations that are hard to find in Fayette County right now.
In addition to hotel space, Pace believes there will be a demand for higher quality restaurants along with a whole range of support services, like dry cleaners.
"We're going to need it all. We're going to need dry cleaners because just the dry cleaning business generated in one day's shooting is enough to put a whole dry cleaner in business. We're gong to need accounting firms, payroll companies, all of the above," Pace said.
Asked to compare what Pinewood Atlanta would be like compared to its U.K. counterpart, Pace said "everything we do here is going to be better, and I mean that seriously. We're building state of the art stages that will be better than they have."
The takeaway from Pace's talk was that he sees a very high ceiling on the potential impact of Pinewood Atlanta, and he's not alone in his optimism.
"You see all these movies and go 'wow!'" Pace said, "It's that kind of stuff that's coming here, and I can tell you I haven't sat in the governor's office much but he has been so involved and supportive of this. It's like the whole state has rallied around our county."