The current set of film incentives is set to expire in 2014, and Republican state lawmakers have made no secret that the controversial package could be on the chopping block – as part of tax reform efforts. At a New Hanover County Commissioner candidate forum last night -- sponsored by the Cape Fear Economic Development Council – the six candidates vying for three seats on the Commission offered distinctly differing views on whether film incentives serve the county. WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports.
Film production in the state has already outpaced last year’s record-setting numbers. And that, says Democratic Candidate Rob Zapple, makes a compelling case for continuing incentives.
“So that means when you get a production like ‘Iron Man III’ that comes here and puts over $80 million into our local economy, when they finish, not only do we get a great film that I can go and enjoy with my grandson… but when they pack up their trailers and they move away after leaving their $80 million-plus dollars here, there are no smokestacks. That’s clean industry. That’s smart commercial development.”
Woody White, a local lawyer and one of three other Republican candidates, says incentives unfairly pit one industry against another. And it’s a mistake, says White, for government to get into the business of choosing winners and losers.
“The film incentives is nothing more than a product of clever lawyers and lobbyists that have gone to states over the last 20 years and gotten bills passed. That’s what it is.”
But Beth Dawson, also a Republican candidate, says until the General Assembly tackles reform, North Carolina should do what it can to stay competitive.
“I believe an incentive to any business, whether it’s the film industry or not, we need to evaluate the return on investment. That’s the bottom line. The film industry here -- nearing $200 million in spending just this year – that’s a good return on investment, folks.”