Thursday, September 18, 2008

Utah Pushing Incentives as Well...

Utah film industry has $138M impact
Brock Vergakis - The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY -- The governor's office told state lawmakers Wednesday that Utah will need to offer more generous financial incentives to the film industry if they want to continue attracting the kind of productions to the state that had a $138 million economic impact last year. Utah offers filmmakers who spend $1 million in the state up to $500,000 in incentives, but the head of the state film commission said Utah is being beat out by other states that offer movie and television crews greater rebates and tax incentives.

" 'Footloose' currently is a project that is not in production or preproduction yet, but it is on the table," said Marshall Moore, director of the Utah Film Commission. "However, we're struggling to compete right now with Louisiana, and most recently Georgia, to commit that movie."

The Governor's Office of Economic Development is preparing a bill that will request additional financial incentives.

On Wednesday, economic development and film commission representatives sought to allay any fears lawmakers might have about what kind of return on investment the state gets for its incentives.

The governor's staff told lawmakers Wednesday that while filmmakers only spent $54 million in the state last year, the economic ripple of that spending was 2.5 times greater.

It was the first time an economic analysis has been done on Utah's film industry.

"This is a pretty significant multiplier," said Juliette Tennert, chief economist in the Governor's Office of Planning and Budget. "Multipliers (for other industries) usually range between 1 and 3, so a 2.5 for the film industry is relatively high and we think a good place to invest dollars in Utah."

Economic development officials told lawmakers the film industry created 1,100 new jobs last year , $25.7 million in personal income and $2.9 million in new tax revenues.

The state spent $3.9 million in film incentives last year, up from $1 million the year before.

Moore said Utah is an attractive place to do business for television and movie producers, but studio executives often force production to occur elsewhere. He said that's leading many Utah-based crew workers to seek jobs elsewhere.

Jason Perry, director of the Governor's Office of Economic Development, wouldn't say what incentives his office would ask lawmakers for, but said they would help Utah capture its "rightful place in the motion picture industry."

Currently, Utah offers a 15 percent rebate on every dollar spent by film crews in the state. Like many other states, it also offers sales and hotel tax exemptions.

By comparison, Moore said Utah lost the television series "Army Wives" to South Carolina. That state offers up to a 20 percent cash rebate on in-state employee wages and a 30 percent cash rebate on in-state supplier expenditures.

New Mexico, another state Utah has lost productions to, offers a 25 percent rebate on all expenditures, up to $15 million in loans per project and up to a 50 percent reimbursement for wages paid to train local crew members.

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