I visited Rome, Georgia, to meet with local stakeholders about happenings in the region related to film and entertainment. Rome is a thriving Georgia community with a growing economy, bustling downtown, and a rich arts and culture scene.
Overall, local economies need statewide legislative support and investment incentives to facilitate direct spending, job creation, and funded workforce programs. These incentives provide more job opportunities in film, music, gaming, and other areas of digital entertainment as well as local jobs from companies relocating/expanding to communities, partly because of a rich arts and cultural environment. This is the foundation for towns to fully participate in a thriving creative economy.
Assuming progressive economic policy toward the entertainment industry on the state level, three things are needed for local communities to nurture their creative economy:
- Forward-thinking local government leaders
- Private industry investment to provide support services
- Local educational and workforce initiatives
When these areas are collaborating at peak performance, it’s game time. We find Rome on the cusp of great things and already achieving success in growing their entertainment industry. During my time there, leaders gathered to discuss ways to go to the next level including formally establishing an entertainment commission. This entity would simply formalize, organize, and structure the work already being done by local government officials in terms of working with creatives on film, music, arts, and cultural projects in Rome. The local Conventions Board has formally launched a steering committee to form a Film, Arts, and Entertainment commission.
It’s a natural progression for this community. Rome businesses already provide custom services and products to production and entertainment companies working in the region like catering, hotels, set and stage build/design, transportation, etc. Plus, the educational institutions in the region like Georgia Highlands College, Shorter University and Berry College are turning out creatives ready and trained.
One unique asset in Northwest Georgia, is the Rome International Film Festival (RIFF). A thriving film festival is a big bonus to any area and this festival is special as it not only celebrates film, but all areas of Rome’s creative economy. Local, state, national and even international firms partner with RIFF to show off the region. Leanne Cook was recently named Executive Director of RIFF. She is well known in Georgia and has years of executive level marketing experience having worked with AT&T, The Russell Corporation, Harbin Clinic, and WellStar Health System. We will have more on the festival later. More info here.
I was able to spend quality time with several influential folks during my visit including Ali Booker, Maria Guerra-Stoll, Shay Griffin, Thomas Kislat, Aaron Braunstein, Lisa Smith, Seth Ingram, Heather Seckman, Church Lockett and others. This group represents economic development, local industry suppliers and creatives living and working in the region. Our primary gathering took place at PAM Studios where I had the opportunity to interview CEO, Maria Guerra-Stoll. (More from this interview soon.) The conversations with Maria and the group were around ideas to strengthen collaboration and relationships locally to better attract direct spending and investment in Rome.
Folks throughout Northwest Georgia are committed to growing the arts and entertainment culture. This is serious business – no glitter, no gold. The desired jobs and careers in the creative space must remain and those opportunities must expand. This requires hard work and local governmental support. In Rome, it looks like the right folks are at the table.
Commentary by Randy Davidson
Note: The Georgia Unscripted Roadshow will be in Rome as part of our 9 city tour around the state. Let us know if your company would like more information about attending or supporting this event and others slated. Dates will be announced this week.