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Movies help spur local economy
(Left to right) Nancy Wong, Location Manager, "Fast Five"; Glenn Sears, Executive Director, Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council; Gina Hartsell, Executive Assistant, Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council; Mayor Randy Mills, Board of Directors Chairman Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council; Tony Lucas, Conyers City Manager; County Commissioner JaNice Van Ness, Vice-Chairman, Board of Directors, Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council; Marty Jones, Conyers City Councilman; James Lin, Supervising Location Director, "Fast Five"; Included in visit but not shown in picture: David Spann, Conyers Chief Operating Officer. - photo by Submitted Photo

Conyers might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of movie towns. But Conyers and Rockdale County have quietly been making inroads into the movie industry by welcoming productions with open arms and reaping more than $4 million in economic benefit along the way.

The largest production to come to Conyers recently has been "Fast Five," the fifth installment of the "Fast and the Furious" franchise, featuring stars such as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Keeping the production running is like operating a small army said Location Manager James Lin. Having an accommodating community and leadership like in Conyers/Rockdale makes it that much easier.

"Conyers is definitely one I would put in the top three of cities I’ve worked in recently," said Lin, who has worked on productions such as "Rush Hour 3," "Transformers," and "Sex in the City." "We’re based in Conyers because of the ease and flexibility in the city of Conyers. They are more than willing to accommodate us and our ever changing needs… They see the value of having a film production in town."

"We’re a small community," said Glenn Sears, Executive Director of the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council. "Because of our working relationships, we, in conjunction with the city, can make that happen."

Mayor Randy Mills agreed. "We all would love to see Hollywood East and we would love to see it around here."

The Universal Pictures film is leasing about 500,000 square feet in four facilities in Conyers, which is currently its stateside production base, until November. The crew has also shot in three other locations in Georgia, including Atlanta, and in Puerto Rico.

Mills estimated the production will bring more than $4 million to the local economy, not just in payroll for the small army of contractors, propmakers, technicians, transporters, and other craftsmen, but also in the money spent on supplies and retail in the area. Lin estimated about 150-250 people are working in the facilities in a given week, with only about 40-50 of those coming in from out of town.

Location scouts began inquiring about Conyers around a year ago, said Gina Hartsell of the Conyers Rockdale Economic Development Council. But it wasn’t until earlier this year after representatives found facilities that fit their needs and decided to set up shop here.

Lin said he first heard about Conyers from someone he worked with in the Bahamas who lived in Conyers. "I said jokingly ‘What’s out in Conyers?’" As he began to look around with a real estate agent and began to talk with people on other productions near by, such as The Vampire Diaries in Covington, he realized the area would suit their needs.

Lin also cited Georgia’s tax credits as being an incentive to looking at working in Georgia, especially for productions with tight budgets.

"It may be intrusive in the day to day," said Lin, "but you look down the next five to 10 years. If the reputation gets out that ‘Hey, they’re film friendly, they’re willing to work with you,’ you’re going to see a big push and more films coming out here."