A small company with big ties to the entertainment business is setting up shop in Knoxville.
Egripment USA Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of a Dutch company that makes cranes, dollies and other camera-support equipment for the film and television industry. The company currently is headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif., but is following its top U.S. executive to East Tennessee.
That executive, whose entire legal name is Boots, said about two years ago he was buying a home in Knoxville in search of a better place to live. Boots further said that toward the end of last year he was looking for a replacement to run Egripment USA, but the company's owners instead asked him if he would stay on if they moved the business.
The company is leasing space on Center Park Drive, near the intersection of Pellissippi Parkway and Parkside Drive.
Boots said only two or three employees will work at the office, but said the bigger impact is that the company may eventually set up a production rental firm that provides equipment for film shoots that are done on location.
"When there's a great deal of equipment available in a local area and people trained to use it, that's a real incentive for production companies to do their productions there," he said.
Boots said the vast majority of remote camera equipment used to cover the Olympics since 1996 was manufactured by Egripment, which also has supplied equipment for events like World Cup soccer and the X Games.
James Roberson, an NAI Knoxville commercial real estate broker who represented Egripment on the lease deal, said "Knoxville's a very pro-business environment, where it's easier to do business than some other states. And these guys were excited to move to Knoxville."
In fact, that cultural environment was a big part of the attraction for Boots, who said he considered a number of "free states" — a term he indicated was meant to encompass low taxes, small government, and minimal hassle.
In California, he said, it cost $648 to register his car and he paid state income tax on top of federal tax, but the services were "the worst in the nation."
"I drive a motorcycle (and it) about knocks the fillings out of my teeth," he said.
He also cited the political climate.
"I own guns and I'm a hunter," he said. "You're an outlaw (in California) as a result."
The relocation of Egripment to Knoxville adds to the area's growing reputation as a center for television production. Production companies headquartered in the Knoxville area include Scripps Networks Interactive, Rivr Media, Jupiter Entertainment and more than a dozen other businesses that provide content the television and film industry.