Film incentives can’t fall under budget axe

Incentives to lure film and television productions to Colorado are in jeopardy once again — a consequence of legislative budget negotiations.

The Joint Budget Committee deadlocked on the prospect of providing $3 million for the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media to attract on-location shoots that spin off millions more in economic impact.

That $3 million is drop in the bucket compared to nearly $700 million in cuts to critical programs the Legislature is contemplating to comply with constitutional spending limits.

Eliminating incentives is short-sighted for two important reasons. The first is that the incentives primarily benefit rural Colorado. Production companies are notorious for shooting in locations where they get the biggest bang for the buck. Denver has no advantage. It’s competing with cities like Atlanta that can offer twice or three times the incentives.

But Colorado does have mountains, plains, canyons and authentic small towns that filmmakers covet. Offering incentives allows Colorado to compete with Utah and New Mexico for these types of locations.

The second is that incentives over the past five years have allowed Colorado to establish the specialized workforce needed to be competitive in the industry. Colorado’s film incentives were designed to ensure that at least half of a production company’s workforce consists of Colorado residents. Scrapping incentives for even a year could send those workers scurrying to other states where they’re more apt to find work. It would negate the gains of what is essentially a job-creation program.

As we’ve said before, this is the one program the state’s Economic Development Commission can confidently point to as evidence of helping communities outside the Interstate 25 corridor. Tax credits to incentivize job growth and job creation aren’t equitably distributed. They go where the action is, primarily the booming areas of the state. But a place like Silverton can get a huge economic boost from one movie. For example, a movie starring Robert Redford received $1.5 million in incentives for a film with a $17 million spend in Florence and Cañon City.

If anything, the Legislature should consider bumping Colorado’s incentive budget from a meager $3 million to closer to $10 million. Utah’s budget is $8.8 million. New Mexico’s is $50 million. This could be a $1 billion industry in Colorado if the film office had more to offer. That’s $1 billion in salaries, hotel rooms, catering services and production equipment that would be taxed and return revenue to the state, all while pumping new spending into rural economies.

Not to mention the free publicity and the showcase effect of having Colorado’s landscapes in front of millions of potential tourists.

It’s a penny-wise, pound-foolish maneuver to strip the incentives. We urge lawmakers to find a creative way to free up the $3 million that will keep the film industry alive in Colorado.


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