Sunday, August 24, 2008

NM Featured in Mountain West Roundup

Interesting article in this Sunday's Las Vegas Sun, looking at the strategies of its neighbor states, including New Mexico (and referencing the dreaded 't-word'). For Colorado, it's clean-tech, Biosciences in Arizona and... there's some more positive coverage of New Mexico's efforts to build film industry.

Nevada neighbors turn ideas into economies

...New Mexico is also relying on technology, but on its creative assets even more.

Albuquerque is now called Tamale-wood, as 2,000 New Mexico residents work in the film and television industry, almost all of them in high-paying union jobs.

Gov. Bill Richardson instituted an aggressive tax incentive program to bring Hollywood east.

Unlike many pie-in-the-sky tax incentive programs that wind up being expensive giveaways to big business with little payoff, this one made sense. In part, it made sense because New Mexico was one of the first. More important, Hollywood loves New Mexico for its weather, diverse locations for shooting, food, laid-back lifestyle, Santa Fe vacation spots and creative assets, according to Lisa Strout, director of the state film office, who was in the industry 20 years.

Film companies can get a 25 percent rebate on gross receipts, corporate income and other taxes and apply for up to $15 million in no-nterest loans. They’ve also created a vocational-tech program at the state’s community colleges, for “below-the-line” work — the carpentry, makeup, costuming and other nuts and bolts of the industry. Now the state is beginning to cultivate homegrown actors, directors and writers.

Strout said policymakers take a cold cost-benefit approach to the industry: “We’ve always treated it as a business.”

TV and movie sets are all over Albuquerque and the hinterlands. The Coen brothers shot “No Country for Old Men” in Las Vegas, N.M. The newest offering of “The Terminator” franchise is being shot in Albuquerque now. With the help of government policy, an important critical mass has been achieved, and now soundstages and other important infrastructure are being built, which will further ratchet up the New Mexico advantage.

On the set of a TV show out this fall called “Easy Money,” producer Brandon Hill lauded New Mexico: “I love it. It’s terrific the industry found this,” he said.

They were shooting the show at a dilapidated strip mall. It’s a comedic drama about a family in the payday loan business written by some “Sopranos” alums. The production pays good money for the space for the day, and the lot is brimming with people carrying equipment, down to a parasol held over the female lead, Laurie Metcalf.

Such is the measuring stick for Nevada, a state that is falling behind its western neighbors in the effort to create a new economy...

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