Studio proposal great boost, Freeman
PORT ALLEN , Bobby Freeman
told the Port Allen Rotary Club
on Tuesday that a planned motion picture studio near Port Allen and a proposed planned community in St. Gabriel would spur unprecedented economic development in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area.
acknowledged that key decisions still must be made and that the nation's troubled financial markets could affect the project's ability to get financing.Freeman, a former lieutenant governor and state representative, has been working as a consultant for River Studios and Filmport, and is serving as the entity's chairman of the board.Freeman
told the Rotarians that the studio would bring more than 7,000 temporary construction jobs and more than 5,000 jobs to the West Baton Rouge site on the west bank of the Mississippi River.He
said the eight soundstages and what is projected to be the nation's largest wave tank would mean that a motion picture in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series could be filmed and produced entirely on-site.
Few decisions on the project have been made final, though, Freeman
conceded while responding to questions.He
said bonding companies performing "due-diligence" work on financing proposals have told him that the nation's credit crunch will be felt on the studio project.Freeman
said once the company gets a pledged state appropriation and sells its bonds, it could move ahead with construction.He
predicted both the state appropriation and the bond sale would fall in line by December.Freeman
added that he
hopes to see the start of construction on infrastructure by the first of the year.Freeman
said there is a certain "chicken and egg" aspect to getting the project started, with some planners and regulators wanting a particular order in the process that may be different from what the studio backers had planned.
In response to a question, Freeman
acknowledged that sale of the property sought for the site of the studio complex is not final but would be once the needed revenue bonds are sold.He
also said most of the 900 acres mentioned in talks on the project are part of a purchase option.Freeman
said getting the project jump-started could require a short-term bond sale by a consortium of area banks, though he
"I've never seen a plan as accepted as this one," Freeman
said."Everyone is for it.Not one public official is against it.Usually there is someone, somewhere who opposes a plan.
"This is too good a project for Louisiana to pass up," Freeman
added."If we don't do, it will go to Mississippi."Freeman
mentioned expansion in the St. Gabriel area, both now taking place and proposed, and said the plans for eastern Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes would create a dynamic market for financial expansion.
To imagine the community planned in St. Gabriel, Freeman
said, "think of River Ranch in Lafayette, only 10 times bigger."