By Wade Marbaugh

wade.marbaugh@newtoncitizen.com

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COVINGTON — The Economic Development office of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce announced to local media representatives Monday that a major production studio is coming to Covington, bringing high-paying skilled jobs to the community.

The studio complex, to be built within the city limits at an undisclosed site, will be a “one-of-a-kind, massive film, TV, music and video gaming production facility,” reported David Bernd, vice president for economic development at the Chamber of Commerce.

“This is going to cement Covington as the Hollywood of the South,” Bernd said.

He described the economic impact as “on the scale of another Baxter,” referring to the Baxalta-Shire bioscience complex in eastern Newton County.

Without divulging the parties’ identities, Bernd said an Atlanta company and a big-name West Coast production company will invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the complex, which will house preproduction, production and postproduction facilities, a unique arrangement for the entertainment industry. It will bear the name “Three-Rings” and will be a division of the Atlanta organization.

“Over the past year the concept developed from just a film direction to a multi-faceted direction,” Bernd said. “We’ll be a one-stop shop for the industry.”

Currently, there is a year-and-a-half wait to get into a sound studio, he said, noting that entertainment producers prefer working in Georgia studios to take advantage of the state’s extraordinary tax incentives for the industry.

Current state statistics indicate that the typical film job draws a salary of more than $80,000 per year. The studio will provide jobs spanning the entertainment industry, such as camera grips, pipefitters, welders, stagehands, directors, actors, and editors.

According to Bernd, project engineers are expected to have plans drawn up by September, including artist renderings of the proposed studio complex.

“I do think this represents what the city of Covington is seeking to do,” said Mayor Ronnie Johnston. “Bringing in investments that bring in jobs. This is an awesome example of people working together to benefit the community. The fact that we have the people with the talent to bring this kind of thing here — we are blessed. A lot of communities would give a right leg for this.”