Extend Film Incentives

by Jeff Sykes

As our state’s economy continues to struggle to produce quality, high paying jobs, especially for young people, it seems short sighted for the Republican-controlled legislature to crush the successful film industry that has grown up in North Carolina.

The film industry has taken off since 2010, when the current film incentive program began. Most recently the state has enjoyed what many call an explosion of production related to television and commercials. Even this week crews are looking for housing in the Sedgefield area to begin producing a film in Guilford County.

Critics say that the incentive program is a drain on the general fund. While it’s true that there is a cost associated with the program, the return on investment is not just measured in financial terms.

According to the N.C. Department of Revenue, the film incentive program cost about $60 million to the state’s general fund in 2013. The most recent figures available show a cost of $35 million through April of the current fiscal year, which ends next week. According to a study done by NC State University, the return to the state’s coffers was estimated at $85 million when local tax revenues are taken into account.

Industry boosters say some 14,000 jobs in North Carolina were associated with the film industry in 2012. The NCSU study showed that more than 4,200 of those jobs were permanent, with an average salary of $66,000.

While it’s hard to argue with a program that brings in more than $400 million in economic activity – that’s money spent at the local level on lumber for set construction, lodging, fuel expenses – the larger boost to our state’s economy could be incalculable.

How do you measure the benefit of attracting creative and talented people to our state who become residents, buy homes, pay taxes and begin a family all because they were attracted to our state’s growing film industry? How do you measure the value of someone who begins their career in our film industry and later goes on to global success, enjoying a platform from which to sing North Carolina’s praises? Surely this is more valuable than the steady drumbeat of backward legislation that seems to come from Raleigh in recent years, giving our state a black eye in the national consciousness.

North Carolina’s film incentive program is a simple 25 percent tax credit that production companies earn on money spent in our state. The generous cap allows our state to attract productions of global scale, such as the recent Iron Man 3 film. The straightforward nature of our incentive program entices commercial and television production companies, who scout locations all across the state, with the assistance of groups such as the Piedmont Triad Film Commission. When local sites are chosen, private sector spending flows into our region.

At a time when the powers that be in Raleigh are seeking to give natural gas companies incentives to come to our state and drill our land and use our water to produce temporary jobs, it seems duplicitous to end an incentive program that has a proven track record of sustainable job creation.

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