Film and TV As Economic Development -- Ohio should offer tax and economic incentives

Submitted by Kevin Cronin on Thu, 05/05/2005 - 12:56.

From pundits to populace, everybody seems to agree that Northeast Ohio needs to step out in a new direction, using the creative arts to drive a new economic resurgence. So why are we talking about the same old models of massive public construction, like a convention center, to bring about this new economy?

While Ohio talks about encouraging film, television and media productions, it lacks the tax and economic-development incentives offered by many other states and foreign countries to lure filmmakers. These can add up to significant savings and provide powerful incentives to produce films and television shows in a particular locale.

Canada's various incentives can reduce a movie's production cost by 20 percent to 30 percent, according to figures provided by the Illinois Film Office. U.S. movie and television producers inject about $10 billion a year into the Canadian economy. Much of that money would stay in the U.S. economy if tax incentives were applied more broadly in the states.

Ohio needs to provide carefully targeted tax assistance to encourage economic growth in new and vibrant ways. Here are some of the tools other U.S. states have embraced.

Investor tax credit. Louisiana offers a 10 percent to 15 percent tax credit to attract private investment for the production of films, videos, TV programs and commercials.

Employment tax credit. Illinois offers a 25 percent credit for hiring its residents in a production made in the state. (Louisiana offers a similar 10 percent to 20 percent credit.)

Sales tax exclusion. In Louisiana, a production company can exclude sales tax for expenditures of $250,000 or more. The purchases must be related to a local production and be made with money deposited in a checking account in a Louisiana state financial institution. In other states and countries, a point system guides the sales-tax reductions permitted, based on production expenses.

Film enterprise zone. Alabama provides targeted tax breaks for productions sited in its Shelby County.

Oregon production investment fund. Authorizes a 10 percent tax rebate for productions spending $1 million in the state.

New Jersey loan program. Allows the state to offer loans or loan guarantees of up to $1.5 million to independent filmmakers who shoot most of their projects in New Jersey.

The bottom line is that helping film and TV production companies is a wise investment of public money.

Since Louisiana enacted its package, production companies have spent $251 million in the state. When New Mexico began offering filmmaker incentives, production companies' spending increased from $8 million to $80 million in the state.

If Ohio wants film, commercial, TV and digital-media jobs and income, it needs to take the legislative steps to compete effectively. These incentives aren't offered to generate headlines or star appeal. They are sensible, cost-effective, necessary tools to compete with other states and countries to generate employment and business growth.

Kevin Cronin is managing director of Bodwin Theatre Company, a Cleveland nonprofit arts organization. From the Plain Dealer - Sunday, January 09, 2005

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