Wilmington leaders seek one-year deal on film credit
Posted June 25, 2014
Updated June 26, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and area lawmakers asked legislative leaders Wednesday for a one-year extension of the state's film tax credit while a new incentive program is designed and put into place.
"We're asking for a bit more time to work this out the right way," Saffo, flanked by film industry workers, said at a press conference at the General Assembly.
The current tax credit allows productions to receive a refund from the state of 25 percent of allowable expenses, up to $20 million per production. Critics of the program say it's overly generous, costs too much money and doesn't produce long-term jobs or infrastructure investment.
Backers of the credit say it's supporting 4,200 film industry jobs in North Carolina. Many are located in and around Wilmington, where production is currently underway for series such as "Under the Dome" and "Sleepy Hollow."
The credit will expire at the end of 2014. Without it, supporters say, the industry will move production to other states with more generous incentive programs, such as Georgia. Some have already begun.
"That said, we understand that some members of the North Carolina General Assembly would like to see the program changed," said Saffo. "That's why it's so important that we look at all available options today."
Saffo said Gov. Pat McCrory's economic development chief John Lassiter had pointed to New Mexico's program as a potential model.
New Mexico provides grants, with a maximum limit per production, Saffo said. However, it's a refundable grant – that is, the state writes a check to the company – which is the way North Carolina's current program works.
However, Saffo said, tailoring it to North Carolina will take some time. In the meantime, he says, lawmakers should extend the tax credit through 2015 to keep the industry in the state while the new incentive program is worked out.
"Help this state find a path forward that strengthens what we already have," he urged leaders. "Extend the current credit for one year. Cap the credit at $40 million. Work toward the New Mexico model."
Reps. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, and Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, issued a joint invitation to McCrory to visit film sets in their districts.
"We want him to do so before the end of the legislative session, while there's still time to do something about extending the current film incentive that we have," Hamilton said.