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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Tourism is a driving force for North Carolina's economy, and the movie and TV industry is helping fuel that economic engine.

As leaders from across the state meet in Wilmington this week at the Governor's Conference on Tourism, they're talking about how the two forces work together.

"It not only brings people to see us to come as tourists, but it gives us the opportunity to create additional films as well, because when people see the kind of settings that can be created here they want to come do that, and we know, too, folks that come film here sometimes live here, stay here, choose to make their home here. it's easy to see why right?" NC Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker said.

Decker says films attract people, because we are an entertainment society. She says it is important this industry continues to grow.

"This is wonderfully important to North Carolina's economy," Decker said. "Last year over $358 million in revenue dollars, 20,000-plus jobs in North Carolina, 200,000 jobs in North Carolina related to tourism. It's very important to us."

Monday the Governor's Conference on Tourism honored three North Carolinians for their contributions to the growth and success of North Carolina's tourism industry. Among them, was Wilmington's own Bill Vassar, the head of Screen Gems Studios. He says movies like "Safe Haven" are proof of the link between Hollywood East and tourism.

"The story takes place in Southport. They talk about Southport all the way through it," Vassar said. "People come to Southport because they want to touch, feel, be apart of 'Safe Haven.'"

Also added to the Winner's Circle today along with Vassar was Mikie Wall, Vice President of Sales and Services for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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