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Bob Moon: The New York State legislature is putting the finishing touches on its budget ahead of a deadline next week. And like a lot of places, the Empire State is having to make some tough choices. One item you might not expect to see in a slimmed-down budget is a huge tax credit to bring in film and TV producers. But they’re not yelling “cut” just yet — in fact, it might make it. And as Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson reports, it’s becoming a necessity in state budgets from coast to coast.
TV producers: Cut!
Jeremy Hobson: It’s not a surprise to have a film crew set up on the streets of New York. In this case, an episode of Law and Order is being filmed on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
TV Producers: Rolling . . .
What may be surprising is that for every dollar NBC Universal spends here, the company gets 30 cents back from the state at tax time. And not just for the equipment and the salaries of the 50 or so crew members and make-up artists gathered here.
Hobson: How many breakfasts would you say you’re doing per day?
Alex Valdivia: Could be about 150, 200 . . .
Alex Valdivia works as a chef in a large food truck that caters specifically to New York’s film industry. It employs about 30 people.
John Johnston: It is about jobs. Clearly. Jobs for New Yorkers.
John Johnston runs a trade association called the New York Production Alliance. He says film and TV production in New York State directly created more than 7,000 additional jobs last year. Almost three times that when you include the indirect jobs, like hotel and restaurant employees.
Johnston: We’ve got five years of proven track record here that says this is a program that does financially work and create jobs. Other states can imitate that.
Other states already are. Neighboring Connecticut, for example, and Michigan, which is trying desperately to create jobs for laid-off auto workers.
Mike Shore: [In] 2007, three films were produced in Michigan. In 2008, actually between April and December of 2008, 35 films were produced.
That’s Mike Shore of Michigan’s production office. He says that jump came last Spring, after Michigan introduced a 40 percent tax credit. One of GM’s truck plants is being turned into a sound stage. And the state is ramping up the marketing effort.
Shore: You’ve got more shoreline than almost any state other than Alaska, you’ve got vast natural beauty and trees and mountains in Northern Michigan. You’ve got cities that have neighborhoods that were built in the 1800’s. We can give you a look like Boston.
Shore says there are no plans yet for a Hollywood-style sign in Detroit. But don’t think Hollywood’s not paying attention. Last month, California rolled out a 20 [percent] to 25 percent film production tax credit of its own.
In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.