Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Axing Film Office Is Reverse Economics

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Axing Film Office Is Reverse Economics

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Film Office and its tax credit bring value, revenue into the Mountain State

I love West Virginia, but I have to tell you, it gets exhausting at times.

Especially now, when the Legislature is in town, a new governor is in office and there's a deficit bigger than Spruce Knob. Meanwhile, the governor's office and the Legislature play what seems like blind man's bluff with the budget. West Virginia is underwater to the tune of $400-500 million. We're spending more than we're taking in. It's past time to sit down at the kitchen table and take a long, hard look at where we need to cut back.

But why would anyone suggest that we ax a state office and a tax credit that bring revenue and much needed jobs to our state?

Gov. Jim Justice's proposed budget calls for the elimination of the West Virginia Film Office and the film investment tax credit. Whoever did the math on that is certainly no John Nash or Katherine Johnson.

Over the course of the last eight years, the Film Office, armed with the incentive, has been an economic driver in our state, attracting more than $54 million of direct expenditures using tax incentives totaling approximately $16 million.

That's a 30 percent return, before you even begin to calculate the indirect value.

Other states understand the economic value of attracting the production business. We fill hotel rooms, sometimes for weeks on end, we order catering for our crew, we buy necessities at the local drugstore, we rent gear, we rent tables, we pay scouting fees and location fees and, most importantly, we hire the local workforce.

That's why nearly every state, and even some cities, have film offices tasked with recruiting the film industry. The programs vary, but intent is the same: to be competitive. In this, West Virginia is more D-III than D-I.

Here are a few comparisons: Georgia, Illinois and Kentucky have no cap on their film tax credit programs. Pennsylvania has a $60 million cap; Oklahoma a $50 million cap and Ohio has $40 million cap.

Where are we ranked? In a familiar spot: near the bottom. Our cap is set at $5 million annually.

Go to any Chamber of Commerce meeting in this state and you'll hear the familiar refrain: We need to diversify our economy, we need technology jobs, we need to attract more visitors to our state. …

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