Posted: Tuesday, May 20th 2014 at 11:30am
South Hall Biz Coalition hears about tourism
By Marc Eggers Staff
FLOWERY BRANCH – “Tourism in Hall County is big business and business is good,” began Stacey Dickson, President of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We’re generating a lot of sales tax…and why is that good? Subtract $272.15 from your property tax bill – thank you, visitors – because if we didn’t have tourists in Hall County that’s how much your property taxes would go up on average,” Dickson said.
Dickson was addressing members of the South Hall Business Coalition, a branch of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, meeting for breakfast at the historic train depot in Flowery Branch Tuesday morning.
“We have jumped rank. We leap-frogged ahead of Athens-Clarke County; so football-shmootball,” Dickson said. Hall County now ranks #12 in the state in tourism-generated dollars according to the most recent data.
While tourism is now on the rise, Dickson’s reflected on the past decade and the effect of the economic downturn that saw all areas of tourism in the county fall back except one. “Through the recession sports events was the only segment of the hospitality business that grew.”
As the area’s economy appears to be improving, Dickson expects strong growth in tourism related business.
“One of the most fun and diverse and interesting parts of my job is working with the Georgia Film Office as a camera-ready liaison for Hall County,” said Dickson.
She pointed to this weekend’s premier of a major motion picture filmed last year in Hall County as an example. “This Friday, in theaters, ‘Blended’, with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, filmed in Hall County…for about sixty days last summer.”
She said that in addition to the money spent in Hall County to film the movie, the production company gets a big tax credit from the state that benefits local businesses, as well.
“So if Warner Brothers Pictures comes and shots for sixty days and they get a huge tax credit, they’re based in California and don’t really pay Georgia taxes, so what do they do with that (tax credit)?”
Dickson answered her own question, “They turn around and barter, and sell that tax credit back to Georgia businesses…for about 70-cents on the dollar. There’s a program you can enroll in…the state film office will put you in touch with film production companies who are looking to sell their tax credits.”
When asked about the “Convention” part of her organization’s name, Dickson acknowledged that the absence of a large-capacity convention center and auditorium has caused them to accept the fact, that for now, they need to focus on smaller groups.
“Our niche is in small meetings; meetings of 300-people and less. That’s actually a trend. There are not as many big meetings as there were five years ago.”
But she added, “We are encouraged by the city’s (Gainesville’s)…development of the new mid-town complex, the potential to have a ballroom of some size that will be double the size of the Civic Center or the First Baptist Church facility. It’s needed for those groups of 500 and less.”
“We’re not going to attract a major conference away from the Gwinnett Center or Atlanta. That’s just not feasible for us.”
So as you examine your Hall County real estate tax assessment mailed last Friday, remember the movie opening this Friday and how attracting tourists and business ventures, like that movie, is something you can live with.
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