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INSIDE HOUSING MARKET.............................................................................................................2F JAIL POPULATION...............................................................................................................4F SHERIFF’S OFFICE...............................................................................................................4F SCHOOL GROWTH..............................................................................................................5F GCPS CONSTRUCTION.....................................................................................................6F GEORGIA GWINNETT COLLEGE........................................................................................7F GEORGIA GWINNETT COLLEGE ATHLETICS................................................................8F CHAMPIONS TOUR AT TPC SUGARLOAF....................................................................8F MOVIE STUDIO....................................................................................................................9F

2F • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014

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Housing market making a turnaround By Camie Young


One of Gwinnett’s biggest industries took quite a hit in 2008, when the housing market crashed in the Great Recession. Not only was development stagnant, but the county experienced the most foreclosures in the state, and prices dropped, leaving many local residents underwater on their mortgage. But the numbers have been climbing — well, the number of permits have been rising while the number of foreclosures have dropped. In 2013, 2,336 singlefamily permits were issued. The number is still well below the 2004 high This file photo shoes new home construction. of 8,291. But it is four times more than the 446 issued in 2009 and well Jason Delaney, an assis- College, said he saw signs on its way to the 2007 tant professor of econom- of the improving housing number of 3,525. ics at Georgia Gwinnett market when he bought a

house last summer. “There’s much more competition in the mar-

ket,” he said, adding that more bidding wars are happening. “As the labor market starts to loosen up and you see people feeling more secure about their future, you will see the housing market return,” Delaney said. With many people’s personal wealth tied to their home, much of the doldrums set in due to the drop in housing values, he said. “It became very difficult for people to sell their house and move somewhere else,” he said. According to Gwinnett County’s assessor’s office, the average home price in Gwinnett dropped dramatically. The number experienced dramatic growth until reaching a high in 2008 of $213,000. By 2012 that number dropped to $157,000, a decrease of about 25 percent. The number was lower than 2003’s average

of $174,000. But things are beginning to look up. Not only are Gwinnett officials expecting a 2 percent increase to the tax digest in 2014, the first upward trend in five years, Realtors are also seeing signs of increases. According to reports from Georgia MLS, the average sold price in Gwinnett County increased almost $20,000 in January from the same month last year. “The market is turning around. Foreclosures and short sales are on the decline and the low inventory is pushing the price of resales up,” said Tom’Rourke, CEO of the Northeast Atlanta Metro Association of Realtors. “We just returned from the Georgia Realtor Convention and the market seems to be moving in the right direction all across the state.”

Paychecks show promise of economy’s improvement By Camie Young


Gwinnett County paychecks have been evident of the tight times of the Great Recession. This year, though, county employees have rejoiced at the first raise in pay in five years, a sign that Gwinnett’s decline in revenues is taking a turn. “We haven’t had (a pay increase) in five years, and things have gone up so

much, groceries and gas,” said Sharon Wilkerson, who works in the tax assessor’s office and applauded commissioners when they approved the raise earlier this year. “I think we all deserve it.” The funding comes from an expected increase in property taxes, which comes after years of seeing revenues decline along with declining property values. Officials expect a turnaround in 2014, with about a 2 percent increase expected in the

county tax digest. Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the county staff polled nearby counties and private companies and found similar situations, with raises coming to employees. Salaries had become an issue for the government, as some of the 4,800-person labor force began to leave for higher-paying jobs. The issue had caused Police Chief Charlie Walters and other officials to worry about hiring and retaining quality

employees. “We think this was very important,” Nash said when she proposed the raises late last year. “It is a recognition of the fact that they have worked very hard over those years (without raises).” Commissioner Lynette Howard agreed that the long-awaited raises are welldeserved. “The citizens have great county employees working for them,” she said, after approving the budget in January. “The staff is creative and

innovative. They can develop better systems using less resource while still setting the highest standards in their industries.” School teachers in the area are still awaiting word of an increase in salary, although the state’s ability to increase funding has led to a cut in furlough days, which helps with paychecks. Jason Delaney, an assistant professor of economics at Georgia Gwinnett College said that overall wages are still on the decline, but that

is because older people are once again able to make decisions about retirement, which is freeing up jobs for younger workers. Those workers are starting at lower salaries than those retiring, but that is leaving room for more wage hikes. “That will start to happen more and more,” he said of raises, which were forgotten in an economy of tight budgets and layoffs. “That’s great news,” he said of Gwinnett’s pay increases.

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014 • 3F

4F • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014

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Fewer inmates doesn’t equal lower budget at jail By Tyler Estep


LAWRENCEVILLE — The Gwinnett County jail has seen a nearly 20 percent decrease in its inmate population over the last six years, but the effect on its budget — and taxpayers — has been nil. At the end of 2008, the jail’s average inmate population was 2,691, a total not far from maximum capacity. That number was just 2,180 in 2013. Sheriff Butch Conway has credited the decline to a controversial federal program called 287(g), which allows his department to check the legal status of anyone booked into the jail and begin immigration proceedings when appropriate. “We’re not booking in as many illegal aliens as we did in the past,” Conway said in December. “That number’s dropped quite a lot.” Regardless of the reason, the Gwinnett County jail saw 5,558 fewer inmates last year than it did in 2008. Coupled with an improving economy, that might theoretically lead to some sort of savings. Not so much. The sheriff’s office budget has creeped up somewhere around $1 million in most the last several years, and the new budget approved in January allotted the office just under $73.4 million. “The slight budget increases have been in response to overall price increases, such as fuel,

After seeing a nearly 20 percent drop in inmate population over the last six years, the Gwinnett County jail now has several empty housing units. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

those contributions were not available. In the four-plus years since the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office adopted 287(g), more than 11,300 detainers have been placed on local arrestees. That number, though, has been decreasing. According to records kept by the department, 2,926 immigration holds were placed in 2010, the first full year of the proAt the end of 2008, the jail’s average inmate population gram. Nearly 1,000 fewer was 2,691, a total not far from maximum capacity. That were used in 2013. number was just 2,180 in 2013. Conway has asserted that the decline in his jail’s inmate population is food and utilities,” sherremain consistent. Because directly tied to 287(g) and iff’s office spokeswoman the sheriff’s office is, as what he believes has been Deputy Shannon Volkodav of Feb. 6, 46 employees a successful run cracksaid last month. “There short of a full staff, overing down on the county’s is a small cost-saving time payments to exisitundocumented residents. measure with a decrease in ing deputies offset any “I think a lot of them inmate population, but it’s savings from a reduced did move out of Gwinnot signficant.” inmate population. nett when we started that Volkodav said no real Any money not spent program,” Conway said effect is felt because from each year’s pre-aplate last year, “and I think operational expenses, proved budget is returned a lot of them don’t expose 75 percent of which are to the county’s general themselves to things that personnel costs, tend to fund. Exact numbers for will get them arrested.”

Agencies not at full staff; not economy’s fault By Tyler Estep


LAWRENCEVILLE — An improving economy means local law enforcement agencies have the financial ability to keep a full staff. Problem is, they’re not having a ton of luck doing so. The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office is actively hiring and, as of Feb. 6, had a whopping 43 vacancies. Spokeswoman Dep. Shannon Volkodav said that trend might soon be reversing. The department hired six people in January, had 16 conditional job offers out and had 10 interviews scheduled for the next week, Volkodav said. All that would cut a decent chunk out of the deputy deficit — and the funds thrown at overtime pay — but whether it becomes a trend is yet to be seen. The Gwinnett County Police Department has 31 sworn positions it’s looking to fill, but its problem hasn’t necessarily been hiring new officers. It’s been keeping them. “We’ve got to stop the bleeding,” Chief Charlie Walters said during budget hearings last September. “We’re not growing leaders for our future. We’ve got to make this a preferred place to live and work.” The plea, echoing those made in other recent years, was made because handfuls of officers have been leaving the Gwinnett police department for city agencies across metro Atlanta. The fledgling

We’ve got to make this a preferred place to live and work.” — Charlie Walters, Gwinnett Police Chief

department in the new city of Brookhaven, Walters said, hired away five officers in one day. The reason? Much higher salaries, reportedly. A post on the Gwinnett County website lists starting salaries at $36,074 (for entry-level officers) and $38,777 (for officers that are already state certified). At the sheriff’s department, starting salaries are listed at $34,028 (for entry-level Deputy/Jailer I positions) and $38,770 (for already certified Deputy II positions). The budget approved earlier this year included a 3 percent raise for all county employees, the first in five years. How that affects officer retention is yet to be seen. Things are a little peachier on the fire department side. The 2014 budget included additional staffing “to support two new med units.” According to county officials, a total of 18 positions were funded — three new openings and 15 others that were held vacant during previous budget cuts. “In addition,” officials said, “the budget funds five new positions in response to statewide juvenile justice reform, three in juvenile court and two in the district attorney’s office.”

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014 • 5F

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Deal proposes more K-12 education funding By Keith Farner


The proposal by Gov. Nathan Deal to spend more money on K-12 education in the upcoming state budget was met with a question of timing by Gwinnett teachers. “Interesting it is an election year when these proposals are made isn’t it?” said Lynne Franks, a third-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary. “Teachers are due a little respect, especially the hard-working Gwinnett teachers. It would be nice if the legislature would acknowledge the hard work of teachers and put a priority on education every day, not just during an election year.” At $547 million, Deal called his proposal the largest single increase in funding for K-12 education in seven years. The proposal, which he outlined in January during a joint session of the General Assembly, is designed to increase access to technology, end teacher salary freezes and restore instructional days. Deal’s proposed $8 billion toward K-12 education includes nearly 82 percent of new revenue receipts dedicated to education, with 68 percent of those new revenues going to K-12 education. Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said that the district greatly appreciated Deal’s budget recommendations. Wilbanks also noted the proposed increased funding for the Quality Basic Education formula, a statewide formula based on enrollment.

Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said that the district greatly appreciated Deal’s budget recommendations. (File Photo)

“(This) will certainly assist GCPS as we struggle to provide essential operational services to support our core business of teaching and learning and possible salary increases for our teachers and staff,” Wilbanks said in a statement. Gwinnett teachers haven’t had a raise in six years, which for some has meant more than $10,000 in wouldbe wages. “If more of our state legislators and citizens actually visited a Gwinnett classroom they would see hard working teachers that spend their days counseling, teaching,

planning, parenting, grading, meeting, not to mention working long hours after school to prepare for their next day with an ever-changing curriculum,” Franks said. “Teach is an action verb, not a noun.” Deal added that during his administration, funding for education has increased every year for a combined more than $930 million. For technology, Deal included $44.8 million in the budget to better connect every classroom in Georgia to the Internet and other digital resources. While GCPS is in its third

year of a classroom technology initiative, many districts across the state, especially in rural South Georgia, lag behind in technological advancements. “It is my goal that every child in any classroom in our state will have access to the best instruction possible, and this can be done by expanding the availability of our online learning,” Deal said. Beyond high school, Deal also asked legislators to create a new Zell Miller Hope Grant for technical college students that would cover 100 percent of their tuition for those who maintain a

3.5 grade-point-average. Deal’s budget proposal also includes $10 million for a one percent interest loan program solely for technical college students, and a recommendation to fund the Hope Scholarship and Hope Grant at 103 percent of the amount it was last year. “This will allow students who have a financial need to cover the funding gap in tuition, books and fees,” Deal said. After the success of last year’s priority list of areas of study in technical colleges that have high job placement, Deal added welding,

health care technology, diesel mechanics and information technology to the list of commercial driving, practical nursing and early childhood education. Deal said 100 percent of the tuition was paid for through the Hope Grant for students who pursued the original three areas. The governor also announced the creation of the Governor’s High Demand Career Initiative, which is a collaboration between leaders in economic development, the University System of Georgia and technical colleges and schools.

6F • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014

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GCPS growth, construction continues By Keith Farner


The 13th largest school district in the country continues to grow, even in the wake of the economic downturn. The current building plan, funded by special purpose local option sales taxes approved by voters in 2011, has continued even though Gwinnett County Public Schools hasn’t opened a new school since 2011. That will change in August when the district opens Northbrook Middle in Suwanee. It’s the first new school to open in the district since Moore Middle in Lawrenceville in 2011. Earlier this year, the district’s enrollment included 4,173 new students, which caused it to hire about 40 new teachers. It was a bounce back from last year’s number of new students — 265 — compared with the 2007-08 year, which saw 3,574 new students. The 2012-13 school year was the first time in more than a decade that the district did not open a new facility. With 169,150 current students, up 4,173 students from the 2012-13 school year, Gwinnett remains the largest district in the state and one of the fastest-growing in the Southeast. In five years, the district is expected to top 180,000 students enrolled, said Steve Flynt, the district’s chief strategy and performance officer. The next largest districts in Georgia are Cobb County (110,001 students), DeKalb County (99,398) and Fulton

Construction continues on Old Norcross Road at the new Berkmar/Central Gwinnett relief high school scheduled to open in August 2015. With 169,150 current students, up 4,173 students from the 2012-13 school year, Gwinnett remains the largest district in the state and one of the fastestgrowing in the Southeast. (Special Photo)

County (95,232). District officials have said in previous years that the growth slowdown gave them a chance to catch their breath and play catch-up. Projected to one day welcome 2,000 students, the yet-to-be-named Berkmar/Central Gwinnett relief cluster high school at 2136 Old Norcross Road is scheduled to open in August 2015, with between 700 and 900 students. As construction crews from the Carroll Daniel Construction Company of Gainesville worked through the winter, one of the benefits of work-

ing under an existing roof — being out of the weather — was revealed. The school will also create a new cluster, the 19th in the district, which will be named after the school, the first geographic attendance zone to open since Lanier High opened in 2010. New schools are typically named in the winter or spring before they open. One of the more noticeable changes that community members have already noticed is the new school will breed new sports rivalries. “Our community comes together to help form that

cluster and learning community,” district spokesman Jorge Quintana said. “We’re very fortunate to be in an area where our parents are very supportive and become involved in that process, and students and parents will be involved with the selection of colors and a mascot. It’s always a very exciting opportunity and exciting time.” The building is a former warehouse once occupied by Bridgestone Tire, but was not in operation when the district purchased the property in 2005 for $6.7 million. While weather

protection was a positive in this project, Chief Operations Officer Danny Jardine said the major challenge is to bring an older warehouse building up to current codes while providing an aesthetically pleasing exterior and learning environment. The price tag, $63.5 million, was $602,000 lower than the next lowest bidder, but is higher than recent new schools such as Lanier High ($50.7 million) and the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology ($35.4 million), which both opened in 2010. The largest building

project ever by the district is designed to provide students creative instructional programs not seen in a typical high school, Jardine said. District officials have said in previous years that the growth slowdown gave them a chance to catch their breath and play catch-up. Jardine said the gap in constructing new schools was planned and tied to funding. Moore Middle opened as part of Phase II of the building program funded by general obligation bonds approved in 2008.


SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014 • 7F

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GGC interim president not bothered by title For the second time in his career, Stanley “Stas” Preczewski is an interim president of a college. Yet because of his personality, and the way Georgia Gwinnett College was built, Preczewski believes the interim title doesn’t change the job description. “Whether you have interim before your name, the decisions still have to be made and the responsibility is still the same,” Preczewski told the Daily Post in a recent interview in his office. “You just have that word out front. I operate the same whether it’s there or not there.” The appointment, which began on July 1, follows GGC President Daniel Kaufman’s recent move as the new president of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. Preczewski served as provost since GGC’s founding in 2005. Preczewski was also interim president of Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville from July 2011 through June 2012. While he learned some lessons in his first stint as an interim president, Preczewski said GC’s more than 100-year-old history is a stark contrast to GGC still being in the development stages. There is no timetable for the Board of Regents to name an official president, spokesman John Millsaps said. The standard process for finding a college president includes the formation of two separate committees: a campus search commit-

There’s only one reason a college exists, there’s only one reason we have jobs. It’s because students choose to come here. ” — Stanley “Stas” Preczewski, Georgia Gwinnett College interim president

title as a sort of on-the-job interview for the permanent position. “I’ve never made a decision, ever, in my life that benefits me, in fact I’ve done things that have hurt myself,” Preczewski said. “We’ve always operated, and will always operate, in the best interest of the students. If we do what’s in the best interest of me, generally that’s not what’s best for the students. … There’s only one reason a college exists, there’s only one reason we have jobs. It’s because students choose to come here. They choose to come here because they’re successful here.” While the job description hasn’t changed, Preczewski’s duties have since he was provost, which he admitted to being largely internal to the campus. The president’s duties are largely external, and deals with every stake holder that touches the university: students, faculty, staff, In this file photo, interim Georgia Gwinnett College President Stanley “Stas” Precze- alumni, parents, donors, wski speaks at a graduation ceremony. Despite having the interim title since July, it legislators and the Board doesn’t bother Preczewski, who believes the interim title doesn’t change the job de- of Regents. “Everybody has a scription. (Staff Photo: Jason Braverman) slightly different twist of what they would like to tee and a Regents search ground as a retired colothe mission and the vision see a college to do,” he committee. nel, Preczewski said he of the college. He also said. “Your job is to find With a military backmakes decisions based on doesn’t treat the interim that middle point. It’s not

a science, it’s an art.” Meanwhile, Preczewki is proud to share retention statistics that show 87 percent of students who started in August remain on campus, a 2 percent improvement from last year. The school’s new advising center is also credited for a three-fold increase in retention of atrisk students. Last year, the General Assembly agreed to a sixyear draw down of $1.375 million per year for GGC. Preczewski said the college can handle the drop in funding because it knew it was coming and planned for it. “We’ll take the cut, since we know it’s coming, and it will have no effect on the quality of our education,” he said. Institutions around the country are beginning to take notice, for reasons that include managing with less money. Preczewski said he’s been invited to speak about GGC’s model at national conferences. And he’s proud to share the recent U.S. News & World Report No. 5 ranking that GGC received for Southern public colleges. “We’re getting a reputation for quality,” he said.






By Keith Farner

TickeTs sTarT aT jusT $20*

APRIL 14-20 TPC SUGARLOAF *Select ticket prices increase 4/14/14.

8F • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014

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Young Grizzlies program aims to keep growing By Christine Troyke christine.troyke@

LAWRENCEVILLE — Despite the late January chill, the stands were full for Georgia Gwinnett College’s baseball season opener. Well-prepared fans sat on blankets to insulate themselves against the metal bleacher seats. Students, some comforted only by youthful blasé came out just in what they wore to class. However they warded off the weather — there was still snow on the hill behind the stands in right field — the fact that they were there en masse warmed athletic director Darin Wilson’s heart. “Our attendance for soccer all fall was very good, as well as our attendance for our first baseball game,” Wilson said. “So we’re very pleased with that as far as bringing in some additional dollars. Our community has done a nice job coming out and supporting our teams. So we want to continue to market that and get the fans out here.” Wilson was charged with building an athletic program from scratch — in a slowly recovering economy — and has guided the Grizzlies through a successful first two years. The biggest factor, Wilson said, was the student body approving an athletics fee. “Which pretty much funds us from top to bottom right now in terms of how we function and operate,” he said. “So we are very thankful, first of all, to our students.” GGC has six teams in four sports — baseball, softball, tennis and soccer. The tennis team has its own large facility just down the road from campus. The soccer, baseball and softball fields are on campus and impressive enough to have already

Georgia Gwinnett College, Baseball Field is shown in this file photo. (File photo)

been tabbed for conference tournaments. The baseball and softball stadiums were both finished less than a year ago and already Wilson is looking at the possibility of needing more space for fans. “We’ve got a beautiful facilities here, but as you saw (for the season opening) weekend, we’re already close to getting to capacity with our baseball stadium,” Wilson said. “So there will be some things we want to look at in the near future there and then we’ve got some things we want to do with soccer as well — a press box and some additional bleachers. “So we’ve got to continue to work. We’re very happy with where we are in Year 2, but certainly not satisfied.”

GGC’s athletic program funding has been helped by the efforts of Ned Colegrove, the assistant athletics director for communications and marketing. “Ned has done a great job from a marketing standpoint in generating some outside income for us as well — through sponsorships and that type of thing,” Wilson said. “We’ve got several opportunities at each venue, from scoreboard sponsorships to field wraps. We’ve also got our website,, with several opportunities as well.” They’ve also recently launched the Grizzly Club for boosters of the athletic program. “Individuals can come

in and donate to athletics in general or they can donate to individual programs,” Wilson said. It helps address an issue that the young college doesn’t have any choice about. Most schools have 50 or more years of alumni to tap for donations. “When I first started 2 ½ years ago, we had no alumni,” Wilson said. “Now we have some alumni and that number is going up every year. Obviously the more we can graduate, the better off we’re going to be and the more name recognition we’re going to have. “But one of the things that has helped take up a little bit of that slack has really been our community. Our community has supported us very well

and I think that will continue. Hopefully with us continuing to excel on the courts and the fields, that continues to be a great marriage as we go along.” The sparkling athletics building itself has turned out to be just what the Grizzlies needed, too. “A lot of times you build things and they don’t function quite as well as they could,” Wilson said. “But I’ve been extremely pleased with the way this building functions. It’s really doing exactly what we designed it to do. We got the maximum amount of space out of the footprint, but it’s also, from the weight room, to our academic resource center to our suites to our team meeting rooms, it’s really functioning extremely

well.” “It’s pretty neat too, because one end is designed to just be punched out and we can expand that way if we need to.” There isn’t a written checklist, but the nearterm focus is on adding a press box and stands to the soccer field. Money has already been set aside for the project. “There are always challenges,” Wilson said. “I think we’ll continue to have challenges because when you look at our program from top to bottom, we’re certainly not fully funded. That’s one of our goals, from a scholarship standpoint, and then an operational standpoint, we’ve got some facilities needs that we want to continue to enhance.”

Champions Tour a sign of economic stability By Ben Beitzel

come back on board this year and I expect in 2015 some more of those will Signing Mitsubishi Eleccome on board next year,” tric Heating and Cooling as Hall said. presenting sponsor is only That’s the good, but the part of the story. economy isn’t at a boom. When Gwinnett County Mitsubishi Electric Heating and the TPC — Sugarloaf and Cooling plays the role lost its professional golf of presenting sponsor and tournament, the economy allows enough money for played villain. AT&T, forthe event to succeed, but the merly BellSouth, had little tournament still lacks a title interest in continuing its sponsor. Title sponsorship investment in the PGA Tour generally indicates a $2.5 event, especially with AT&T million annual investment in sponsorships at other Tour the tournament. events. The loss of a title But even that interest levsponsor, and the inability el has increased. A year ago, to find a commitment from no company showed interest another company, doomed in a title sponsorship. professional golf in Gwin“We are in conversations nett. with three major compaThat was then. nies right now,” Hall said. By the end of 2012, “We are in, not just casual though the atmosphere conversations, but serious had changed. The Gwinconversations with three nett Sport Commission, led different companies who by executive director Stan have expressed an interest in Hall, had found a presentthe title sponsorship. That is ing sponsor and lured back not to say that any of it will plenty of other Atlanta and come to pass.” Gwinnett-based businesses Heartening, though, are and companies to invest those conversations. The in golf in Gwinnett. The interest indicates not just the money injection, amid other acceptance and trust in the tireless work, created last quality of the Greater Gwinyear’s first Champions Tour Champions Tour player David Frost competes on the 18th hole as fans gather around during the second round of the nett Championship, but event, the Greater Gwinalso the belief that there is Greater Gwinnett Championship at TPC — Sugarloaf in Duluth last year. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan) nett Championship. Finding money to spend and money major and smaller sponsors events of between $8 and with that. as well as continued interest no doubt that the interest is to be made. combined both the efforts $10 million, according to “As we look forward to from Coca Cola and Gwin- there.” “I think that speaks well of the sports commission Hall, who said he’s comthe 2015 event, we certainly nett Medical Center among In the past year, comof what people think of and the belief of investors in fortable saying this year’s expect it to be a bigger others. mitments only increased where our economy is,” Hall their own economic standimpact will be larger. event.” “It’s amazing that we from businesses, many who said. “I think it speaks well ing. “We thought that was Since Bernhard Langer did what we did last year,” turned away opportunities for us having one year under An analysis done for the phenomenal,” said Hall, took the first trophy at the Hall said, talking about a year ago and continued our belt with the tournaGwinnett Sports Commiswho’s group put on the tournament last spring, more the downtick that hit the efforts only encourage ment.” sion estimated an economic event in just four months sponsors joined the charge, economy as the tournament organizer’s faith in sustained A tournament blessed impact from last year’s after signing the contracts. including a large investment organizer were planning growth. with quality, interest and tournament and surrounding “We were more than pleased from State Bank and Trust for in late 2012. “There is “Some of those have growing financial support. ben.beitzel@

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014 • 9F

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Once completed, the Atlanta Media Campus & Studios would be the largest movie studio in Georgia — the fourth largest studio lot in the country — and it would be built out by retrofitting much of the OFS site off Interstate 85 in Norcross. (Special Photo)

Movie studio is ‘catalyst project’ for area By Deanna Allen

a film school and some housing on site, as well as talk of high-rise office NORCROSS — Chuck buildings and a five-star Warbington calls its a hotel. “catalyst project,” one that “Because of the mere will transform the Jimmy size of the overall projCarter Boulevard corridor. ect — 120 acres — along Once completed, the with density projected for Atlanta Media Campus & the office, commercial and Studios would be the larg- residential components, est movie studio in Georwe are extremely configia — the fourth largest dent of labeling this as a studio lot in the country — catalyst project,” said Warand it would be built out bington, executive director by retrofitting much of the of the Gwinnett Village OFS site off Interstate 85 Community Improvein Norcross. ment District, “which will Plans for the mixed-use ultimately transform the development site, where Jimmy Carter Boulevard OFS, a fiber optic techcorridor into a thriving nologies company, intends high end activity center to continue operations, in- that will create a high declude seven sound stages, mand for new businesses deanna.allen@

and residents in the area.” The Gwinnett Village CID is an organization that works to increase commercial values in its district by promoting redevelopment, driving infrastructure investments aimed at increasing mobility, enhancing public safety and creating a roadside landscape pleasing to residents and business owners. Warbington said the CID is expecting just under $1 billion in new and renovation construction over the next 10 years of the development. Upon completion, the studio is expected to bring just under 10,000 new jobs to Gwinnett, increasing the economic output in

Gwinnett by $1.2 billion, Warbington added. Jacoby Development, the company that completed Atlantic Station that revived east Atlanta, is set to close on the deal in April. “The slight improvement in the economy has certainly helped the overall investment and development community to take new risks and venture out for new projects,” Warbington said. “The main drivers for the media campus coming to fruition at the site is based on location in the metro Atlanta region as well as having an existing structure in place with minor alternations that can be ready for film, TV, gaming and other

media ventures.” In January, officials with Jacoby Development talked to Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District leaders and Scott Condra, president of Jacoby, said the first phase of the project — opening up seven sound stages — could be complete three to six months after the April closing with OFS. Condra said Hollywood producers are already in talks about making the studio home base for $100 million-plus productions, and an announcement will be made in the coming weeks about a Los Angeles company managing the venture. Since a state tax credit began drawing in the

entertainment industry, Georgia has been the site of several filming locations, including sites for the movies “Wanderlust,” “Identity Thief” and “Flight.” The movies “Due Date” and “Last Vegas” filmed in Gwinnett, and upcoming movies set to film in Georgia include “The Good Lie,” “The Familymoon” and “Dumb and Dumber To,” expected to come out this year. TV series have also filmed in Georgia and include “The Walking Dead,” “Vampire Diaries,” “Necessary Roughness,” “Royal Pains” and others. Senior writer Camie Young contributed to this story.

10F • SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2014

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