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Column: Opportunity comes knocking for Hogansville

As the old adage goes, when opportunity knocks, answer the door.  Of course, opportunity often comes in unexpected forms.

For the City of Hogansville, opportunity came knocking this week in the form of a zombie-based television show, one regularly filmed down the road in Senoia. I think it’d be fair to say that city leaders weren’t expecting a call from Stalwart Films, who wanted to utilize the Royal Theatre for part of the filming for “The Walking Dead.”

It’s not like the city had months to prepare for this chance. Stalwart Films approached Hogansville with a short timeframe and a deal had to be worked out in a matter of weeks. Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz said the city bent over backwards to accommodate the film company this week, agreeing that this was essentially an audition for the city. For what it’s worth, according to everyone we talked to, Stalwart Films was impressed with Hogansville and how easy it was to work with city officials.

Obviously, that’s a good thing. But, as you’re reading this, the set has been cleaned up. Stalwart has left town and Hogansville has returned to a sleepy, southern town of about 3,000 people.

So, what does The Walking Dead’s one-day appearance mean long-term for the city? I’m not sure anyone could possibly know the answer to that question yet, but it’s certainly worth pondering.

It’s fair to say that Hogansville has its growth challenges. After all, the city has been stuck with a population between 3,000 and 3,800 for 80 years. The city also is in a challenging financial situation and up to this point hasn’t had a real answer for how to improve in that area. While it’s well-positioned on the interstate, it doesn’t provide the draw of Newnan, Pine Mountain or LaGrange for motorists driving back and forth to Atlanta. There are some people, shops and restaurants in Hogansville, but they can’t bring in visitors alone.   

The biggest draw in Hogansville remains the historic theater and now that theater has even more history, thanks to a quick stop by “The Walking Dead.” As we’ve written many times, the future of Hogansville will be tied directly to the long-term plans for theater.

Opportunity isn’t knocking at Hogansville’s door, it’s kicking and screaming outside. One day of filming certainly is not a fix-all for the city’s problems, but this is a chance for the city to put itself more on the map, to attract additional tourists and to show other film companies what it offers. It will be interesting to see how far the city can take this opportunity.