- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2006

SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas — Bill Elliott sits in his office at the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce and fields another call from a constituent who wants to know: “Is it for real?”

“I don’t know what to tell them,” he said with a grin last week. “I just tell them, ‘I hope so.’”

The big question in this small town about 80 miles east of Dallas is whether a Florida entrepreneur is serious about bringing a new TV production company to Sulphur Springs.

Several weeks ago, the Sulphur Springs News-Telegram wrote of plans for a production company, but since mid-December, the paper has been unable to follow up on the story.

“I hope everything is falling into place,” said Mr. Elliott, the chamber’s president, “but I’ll feel better when I see some dirt flying.”

Mary Bonham, one of the town’s wealthiest and most philanthropic residents, told reporters, “It’s going to be a great adventure for Sulphur Springs.”

She knows, she assured friends, because her friend Joy Walker of Miami had outlined the business plan for her.

In December, Mrs. Bonham enabled Mrs. Walker to meet with city, county and school officials to drop the bombshell.

Mrs. Walker said she will buy Mrs. Bonham’s stately home — a gated manse — with 600 rambling acres and build an adjoining state-of-the-art production studio.

Mrs. Walker said that her programming, all of which will originate here, will not contain profanity, nudity, alcohol or drugs. It will, she said, appear on the Internet.

“We are going to start with bare minimums, 1,500 people full time,” she told the officials. Within 90 days, she added, the work force could grow to 4,500 or more.

For a town of about 16,000, in a county of about 35,000, that might amount either to Sulphur Springs’ greatest opportunity — or wildest hoax.

Mrs. Bonham refused to talk to The Washington Times, and several messages left at the home of Mrs. Walker were not returned. Reporters at the News-Telegram were no more successful.

As the business community sought — unsuccessfully in most cases — to collect background information about Mrs. Walker and her business associates, the man who says he will run the endeavor agreed yesterday to talk to The Times.

Terry Taylor, 50, of Colleyville, Texas, said that he has served as the project lawyer for Mrs. Walker and her backers, and that he will move to Sulphur Springs to oversee the “overwhelming” project.

He said he understood the skepticism, but added, “Once they start to see the building going on and jobs being created out there, they will very quickly forget about any concerns.”

Mr. Taylor, a former general counsel for both a Halliburton subsidiary and a country club developer, refused to name the financial backers.

“While I understand how frustrating it is, frankly, it’s no one’s business.”

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