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Studio ready to start hiring
Moon River, IDA close in on new agreements
medient revised master plan
The revised master plan for the studioplex to be built in Effingham County.

A final master plan and supplemental agreement between the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority and a movie production company could be finished in the next few weeks.

Moon River Studios, which is planning on building the nation’s largest movie production facility in Effingham County, also announced it will be opening its offices in Rincon next week and will be posting jobs on

“We are in the process of creating permanent jobs in Effingham County,” Moon River Studios CEO Jake Shapiro said.

As part of the proposed revised development schedule, Moon River — its name change from Medient is not yet official — plans to have its initial part of the first phase done by December 2015. The remaining portion of the first phase is set for a December 2016 finish. The final phase, which consists primarily of back lots in the northeastern corner of the 1,560-acre tract, is scheduled to be finished in December 2020.

“They have delivered all of the development schedule, the job creation and the capital investment commitments,” Effingham IDA John Henry said.

The IDA is awaiting final numbers on water and sewer demand.

“That will come later as the master plan is fleshed out,” Henry added.

The revised master plan does not include facilities for video game and DVD production facilities, which were a part of the original proposal, though they could be included in later phases. The studio’s expected investment remains $90 million over five years, though the job creation numbers have been revised down to 527 people directly employed by the studio. That does not include ancillary jobs that may be created.

“We have begun an interviewing process,” Shapiro said. “We are very much in the process of creating permanent jobs here. We are very proud of that. We will be hiring as locally as possible in every case that we can.”

The company was awarded a grant from the state based on the numbers of jobs created over time, but it is not known if the company and state will have to review that agreement. The original memorandum of understanding between the company and the IDA also stipulated that the rent from the studio for the I-16 property will increase if it does not reach the $90 million investment mark and 1,000 jobs created by the end of the fifth year.

The IDA’s Medient committee has been involved in meetings or conference calls with studio officials over the last month, getting updates on the firm’s progress on its plans and permit processes.

“The Tuesday meetings have been very effective,” Shapiro said. “Every Friday we go, ‘Wow, we can’t believe how much we’ve gotten done this week.’ These Tuesday meetings really kept the pressure on the company, on its partners and its members to make sure every week we had progress.”

Effingham IDA members will hold a workshop in three weeks, the date of the regularly-scheduled meetings, to review the changes to the supplemental agreement.

“We are a lot closer to finishing up the supplemental agreement,” said IDA attorney Ted Carellas. “We’re pretty much there, but we need another draft to kick out to everybody.”

The IDA’s monthly meeting for October will be pushed back a week to accommodate the workshop and then potentially vote on any changes.

“What I don’t like is us moving in that direction and four or five board members haven’t contemplated these changes,” said IDA member Chap Bennett, urging a workshop be held before any vote is taken. “There are some changes to be discussed.”

Shapiro said the progress should put to rest any qualms about the studio’s financing plan, adding their plans to hire people is an indication of their backing.

“Nothing we do is for show,” he said. “And I think our actions show we have applied very conservative policies. We don’t talk about maybe this and that. We only talk about what we’ve done. We’ve made a very clear distinction in that philosophy from the previous management team.”

Under the master plan concept, the first phase, broken out into two segments, includes the access road, the first soundstages and the studio office. It also is expected to include tennis courts, baseball diamonds and soccer fields for community use.

Future phases may include back lots, office parks and room for a 20,000-seat amphitheater.

Shapiro also praised the efforts of the studio’s partners, including engineers Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung, architect Bill Foley and construction manager Choate.

“Every week the items on the punch list are disappearing,” he said.