Three Ring Stu­dios con­tin­ues to progress

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - JACKIE GUTKNECHT jgutknecht@cov­news.com

Tues­day will be ex­actly one year since Three Ring Stu­dios (TRS) signed a short­term lease on 200 acres of prop­erty in the City of Cov­ing­ton. In that year, the movie stu­dio has ex­ceeded its goal of ne­go­ti­at­ing a long-term lease by get­ting eight steps closer to break­ing ground on “Ge­or­gia’s most in­no­va­tive stu­dio fa­cil­ity.”

“The process of go­ing through this was to sign a one-year short-term lease, which ex­pires next week ac­tu­ally and the sole pur­pose of that one-year lease was to give us lee­way to ne­go­ti­ate a long-term lease,” TRS Pres­i­dent Rahim Cha­ra­nia said. “That was the sole pur­pose. That’s all we were sup­posed to get done.”

While a long-term lease was the only thing TRS was sup­posed to get done, a lot more has hap­pened in that one year. In the past year, Cha­ra­nia and his team have com­pleted the fol­low­ing: Long-term lease ne­go­ti­ated Tax is­sues with New­ton County com­pleted and filed Civil en­gi­neer­ing com­pleted Land dis­tur­bance per­mit com­pleted Sound­stage ar­chi­tec­ture for the first sound­stage com­pleted and sub­mit­ted to the City of Cov­ing­ton

De­vel­op­ment re­gional im­pact com­pleted and ap­proved Site cleared Cen­tral site cleared for sewer Cha­ra­nia said in the be­gin­ning he was ex­cited and rushed through some of the work. Since then, he has taken a step back and slow­ing down the pace to make sure

ev­ery “I” is dot­ted and ever “T” is crossed in­stead of tak­ing short­cuts that could be detri­men­tal in the end.

“Our ex­pe­ri­ence has showed us, you are a bet­ter stew­ard of your com­mu­nity when you mea­sure twice and cut once,” Cha­ra­nia said.

By tak­ing its time, TRS will be able to grow with its cus­tomer’s needs while al­low­ing Cov­ing­ton and New­ton County to also take ad­van­tage of the growth.

Cha­ra­nia, along with his team, is work­ing to guar­an­tee TRS is look­ing be­yond the tax credit for con­tin­ued growth in the city and county no matter the fu­ture of the film in­dus­try.

“We want to build a fa­cil­ity that no matter what hap­pens to the tax credit, not matter what hap­pens to a sin­gle mar­ket, no matter what hap­pens to a sin­gle in­dus­try, it can grow and adapt and con­trib­ute to the com­mu­nity,” he said.

“When I hear a com­ment say­ing ‘Why is noth­ing hap­pen­ing?’ I say, you need to spend a day with us in the of­fice be­cause there’s not a day when some­thing isn’t hap­pen­ing,” Cha­ra­nia said. “Quite hon­estly, it’s some­thing we wake up in the morn­ing think­ing about and some­thing we go to sleep at night think­ing about.”

Cha­ra­nia said TRS is work­ing to build a space that puts the City of Cov­ing­ton and New­ton County on the map.

“As a com­mu­nity we’ve been fo­cused too much on the labor work,” he said. “New­ton County is pro­gress­ing. Labor work isn’t good enough for us any­more. We’re not try­ing to be con­struc­tion cen­tral. We’re not try­ing to get con­struc­tion jobs. That’s not what we’re try­ing to grow into.

“We’re go­ing into a pro­fes­sional epi­cen­ter where the white col­lar jobs are go­ing to far out­pace the man­ual labor jobs.”

Cha­ra­nia said it is about chang­ing the mind­set that “it’s not real un­til we see it,” a mind­set that has plagued “small town U.S.A.” and stunted the growth of small towns.

“Un­der those sce­nar­ios, oxy­gen isn’t real,” he said. “But it is life-giv­ing and with­out it we don’t ex­ist.”

A par­a­digm shift is re­quired to re­view how work is viewed.

“Is it only real when my hands get dirty? Be­cause no­body here is dirty­ing their hands, by the way,” he said. “Our work to­day in Amer­ica is not man­ual, it is in­tel­lec­tual; it is not pro­cessed, it is in­no­va­tive.”

Set­ting the stage for progress

Cha­ra­nia said in the to­tal $ 109 mil­lion project, TRS’s pri­mary goal right now is the south cam­pus, which will in­clude 250,000 square feet of sound­stage space split into seven build­ings, 45,000 square feet of mill space split into three build­ings, Herc Rentals re­gional dis­tribu- tion cen­ter, Class-A of­fice space and park­ing.

So far, Cha­ra­nia has in­vested $1 mil­lion into TRS. Over the next 18 month, the bud­get is to spend around $40 mil­lion.

Right now, work is be­ing done to con­nect TRS to the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sewer Author­ity through a lift sta­tion lo­cated on the cen­tral cam­pus. The path for the sewer has been cleared.

The cen­tral cam­pus will be leased for back­lot pur­poses once the de­ten­tion pond and sewer lines are in­stalled.

“We have to build the best mouse trap,” Cha­ra­nia said. “We have to. It is not a pre­rog­a­tive; it is not a choice; it is a busi­ness and sur­vival im­per­a­tive. Why? Be­cause Pinewood Stu­dios is a heavy-hit­ter and they have a lot of ca­pa­bil­i­ties to be very com­pet­i­tive. The other fa­cil­i­ties that are com­ing up are all within a close prox­im­ity of 285 or the real cen­tral part of the area, it’s eas­ier to get to. Cov­ing­ton is fur­ther out. We have to give them one hell of a rea­son to come fur­ther out. The beau­ti­ful thing is, they’re al­ready com­ing here. They’re al­ready mak­ing movies here.”

‘Our com­mu­nity has no idea’

Cha­ra­nia said Cov­ing­ton’s brand “Hol­ly­wood of the South” has trans­formed from just a brand into a re­al­ity for the city.

“What’s so great,” Cov­ing­ton Mayor Ron­nie John­ston said. “When you sit here and lis­ten to him say, I know it comes from the heart, but what’s so funny is our com­mu­nity has no idea the im­pact this is go­ing to have on this com­mu­nity.”

John­ston said TRS can help move Cov­ing­ton into a com­mu­nity that has zero un­em­ploy­ment and zero poverty.

To bet­ter pre­pare, Cha- ra­nia en­cour­aged res­i­dents to be­come in­formed. More in­for­ma­tion can be ob­tained about the project at three­r­ingstu­dios.com.

Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News

Three Ring Stu­dios Pres­i­dent Rahim Cha­ra­nia pays the New­ton County Wa­ter and Sew­er­age Author­ity.

Jackie Gutknecht | The Cov­ing­ton News Land on the Three Ring Stu­dios cen­tral cam­pus has been cleared for sew­er­age work.

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