The issue of offering incentives to production companies to film in North Carolina has been headline news the last few weeks. Although our region would likely be the most impacted area in the state, dozens of counties will feel the effect if the incentives end.
Industry professionals have clearly stated that if the incentives go away, so will many movies, TV series and commercials. Attracting productions is competitive between states that vie for this economic development. Other states offer generous incentives—more generous than what North Carolina currently offers—to try to lure business their way. We need a reasonably level playing field if we are going to compete.
Despite our superior film studio and crew base, before the incentives were put in place we routinely lost productions to other states. There are many places that are more than happy to provide them that incentive due to the jobs and economic impact that accompany productions. We’ve been monitoring media in Georgia the last couple weeks—which is also a large film location—and they are excited by the prospect that North Carolina is going to do-away with the incentives we currently offer.
When the incentives were bolstered three years ago, production exploded in North Carolina, including massive movies like Iron Man III that made huge investments in local businesses. It’s important to reiterate that it’s not just the film crews that benefit by the productions being here, although the 1,700 of them in New Hanover County alone would certainly be more than enough reason to protect this sector. If freelance film workers were employed by a single business, it would fall well within the Top 5 list of largest private sector employers in New Hanover County.
The productions purchase a great deal of goods and services from our local businesses, making their impact much greater than simply the workers. Just a few examples to illustrate this:
• movie security contracts provided $234,000 in off-duty pay to City of Wilmington police officers and New Hanover County deputies during the last two years;
• one recent production spent $836,000 on site rentals (rental of property for filming, parking and catering);
• a production spent $24 million with 544 different local vendors;
• during 2012, one local hotel earned approximately $1.4 million from movie business, generating $84,000 in local accommodations taxes; and
• a local car rental company earned approximately $1.3 million from movie business during one production.
In total in the last three years, productions have spent more than $500 million in the region, primarily in New Hanover County. Losing this economic impact and many of the 1,700 film industry jobs would be another severe blow to our area economy that has already been hit harder by the recession than other parts of the state and has been slower to recover.
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has been working with the Wilmington Regional Film Commission and our elected officials to show the members of the General Assembly the impact that this business has so that they clearly understand the importance of the film incentive program. Hopefully those efforts won’t go unnoticed.