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State officials take fact-finding tour of state's music industry

Posted: November 20, 2013 - 1:01am
State Rep. Ben Harbin (left) talks to Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross at the Lady Antebellum Amphitheater.  A group of legislators was touring the state looking at entertainment venues in an effort to figure out how to attract more entertainers to the state.   Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
State Rep. Ben Harbin (left) talks to Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross at the Lady Antebellum Amphitheater. A group of legislators was touring the state looking at entertainment venues in an effort to figure out how to attract more entertainers to the state.

Success in attracting the movie industry and its $4 billion impact on the state economy, has officials looking to mine Georgia’s rich music history for another vein of economic development.

Members of the Georgia House Music Industry Study Committee swept through Augusta last week as part of a fact-finding tour of several cities, seeking ways to boost tourism and the music business.

“Music touches everything,” said State Rep. Ben Harbin, who was tapped by House Speaker David Ralston to head up the effort.

Harbin said the group had already toured Athens, Macon and Savannah, meeting with local musicians, promoters, club owners and music educators to get a better idea of what the state has to offer and where the government can help.

“We know that music has over $3 billion of economic impact to the state of Georgia,” Harbin said.

However, he said the potential is there for much more. Harbin said in Nashville, known the world over as a music Mecca, is a good example of how much music can mean to an economy.

“If you back out music production and other parts of the industry, tourism alone is worth $6 billion (to Nashville),” he said, pointing out that many of the top acts in country music hail from Georgia. “How do we capitalize on that?”

Harbin said the state music industry is expected to get a boost from the post-production side of filmmaking, now that the United States headquarters of Pinewood Studios is being constructed outside of Atlanta.

The House committee is looking at whether tax incentives or other measures can be done to further that surge. State sponsored marketing for music tourism is one example. Increasing support of music education could be another.

Harbin cited the University of Georgia’s new music business program as an innovative way to support this effort.

“It has been a tremendous success, but it emphasizes the business side of music,” he said.

After touring venues in Augusta – the Imperial and Miller theaters and the James Brown Arena – Harbin brought the committee to Evans on Friday to check out the Lady Antebellum Amphitheater.

Columbia County Chamber of Commerce President Tammy Shepherd said it is a great benefit anytime leaders from other parts of the state can see what your community is like.

“They are seeing other aspects of your community, which might help them make better decisions on legislation in the future,” she said.

Harbin said the amphitheater is a great example of the kind of things government can do to support quality of life in a community.

“It is a gathering place that creates that community feel,” he said.

“I think it has been a successful venture. They were very impressed with what we have done.”

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