National / International News
The Hunger Games. Selma. The Walking Dead. Georgia's film industry has seen rapid growth in the past decade, anchored by some of the biggest movies and television shows.
Chris Carr, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, says film has grown from a $250 million-a-year industry in 2007 to more than $5 billion in 2014. The state offers incentives, including a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend at least $500,000 in state, and an additional 10 percent for producers willing to insert the state's peach logo into the credits.
Ed Richardson and Brian Livesay, CEOs of 404 Studio Partners, at the site of what will become Atlanta Metro Studios.Noel King
Brian Livesay is the CEO of 404 Studio Partners. His company will handle sales and marketing for the Atlanta Metro Studios, a new space currently under construction. He says he never considered Atlanta to be a movie-making hub, until a project he was working on was lured from Los Angeles to Atlanta. Now, he's in Georgia for good. And that state hopes to make stories like his the norm.
Consumer sentiment is now at the same level as in 2004, well before the Great Recession hit. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment survey for February (preliminary) will be reported Friday, and the consensus among leading economists is that the measure will move modestly higher — to a reading of 98.5, compared to 98.1 in January.
“The American consumer is doing better, maybe paying down some debt, spending more,” says economist Chris Christopher at IHS Global Insight.
But consumers still aren’t on a spending spree. Retail sales in January were up only 0.2 percent after excluding volatile cars and gasoline (the figure was -0.8 percent including cars and gasoline). In December, spending (excluding cars and gasoline) didn’t rise at all.
“Median household income, adjusted for inflation, is still approximately 7 to 8 percent lower than it was in 2008,” says Christopher. “There are a lot of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck. Lower pump prices are helping them spend on higher food prices, which have been relatively elevated over the past year.”
Economists don’t expect consumer spending to rise strongly until wages across the income spectrum begin increasing at a faster pace than inflation, month after month.
Twenty-year government bonds and thirty-year mortgages are bumping into the horizons for serious damage to South Florida from rising seas. So far, those enormous risks haven’t sent home prices tumbling, or sent borrowing costs skyrocketing. The trillion-dollar question is: When and how will the market start charging for those risks?
Financially, the most important piece of information about rising seas clobbering Miami and South Florida is the one nobody knows: When, exactly?
"Geologic time doesn’t give us that answer," says John Englander, author of “High Tide on Main Street: Rising Sea Level and the Coming Coastal Crisis.”
"It doesn’t get us down to human time scale of, 'What decade will it happen?'" he says. "Or, 'What year will it happen?'"
As a Fort Lauderdale home-owner, Englander thinks that uncertainty works to his advantage, for now. He thinks he might sell in five or ten years — to get out while the getting is good — and he thinks his case isn’t unusual. Even though the typical mortgage is 30 years, many home-owners think about their investment in five-year increments.
That’s the same horizon bond-rating agencies use when they evaluate public-works plans. That's as far as they can look, says Geoff Buswick, who runs the public-finance infrastructure group at Standard and Poors.
"Once you get past that, the financial forecasts are softer," he says. "Fifteen years from now, it could be a completely different management team, and a completely different environment."
There’s a reason big investors are OK with a five-year evaluations of what may be, on paper, a bond with a 20, or 30 or 100-year payoff.
"They’re not planning on holding that for 30 or a hundred years," says Sharlene Leurig, who runs the sustainable water infrastructure program for the non-profit Ceres. "They’re planning on flipping it, maybe in eight."
So, from all sides, the risks don’t get priced into the market.
"Everyone thinks they’re going to be the first to realize where the risk is, the first to liquidate," says Leurig. "And that there will be an opportunity to roll that capital into the next thing, which will be less risky."
Keith London seems like someone who should be especially concerned about the risks of South Florida real estate. He’s a city commissioner and longtime homeowner in the Miami suburb of Hallandale Beach. Rising seas have already required some big spending there, just to protect the city’s drinking water supply.
But he doesn’t think his town has it worse. Just first.
"We are the canary in the coal mine," he says. "We have all the issues and all the problems. But this is a bigger problem than just South Florida. There’s going to be global disruptions, everywhere."
He hopes that means global mobilization to address the challenges.
Meanwhile, he thinks South Florida is a fine place to live.
Move over, Amazon Prime and Netflix. BitTorrent is getting into the original content business.
The company, known for its peer-to-peer file sharing platform, is teaming up with Rapid Eye Studios to create what they’re calling BitTorrent Originals. The first will be a sci-fi video series aimed at the coveted 14- to 25-year old-set, launching later this year.
“There’s really been an explosion of investment in originals, and a lot of this is borne out by what appears to be an insatiable appetite from consumers,” says S&P Capital IQ analyst Tuna Amobi.
BitTorrent has made efforts to shed its image as an enabler of illegal downloads by making deals to sell content from the likes of Radiohead and director David Cross. Still, in attracting advertisers for its new original shows, Rapid Eye Studio head Marco Weber says “the young and rebellious image of the brand” is a selling point.