Wilmington Mayor speaks out against film incentives alternative

Published: Jun. 20, 2014 at 11:14 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 23, 2014 at 11:31 PM EDT
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Wilmington Mayor speaks out against film incentives alternative (Source: WECT)
Wilmington Mayor speaks out against film incentives alternative (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina's current film incentive program is set to expire at the end of December, but a new Film & Entertainment Grant Fund is set to take its place, and that has Wilmington's Mayor speaking out.

Sen. Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick), introduced the Film & Entertainment Grant Fund in the Senate to award film projects that make enough money grants. These grants would be capped.

During a luncheon sponsored by the Coalition for Economic Advancement, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo spoke out against the grant fund criticizing the option.

"I just disagree with that comment with regards to the grants program, what's working in Wilmington and North Carolina is working," said Saffo during a question and answer session with the luncheon's speaker John Lassiter.

Lassiter, who is the head of the state's economic development board, was advocating for the grant fund proposal.

Saffo said the current incentive program has brought numerous film projects to the Port City and argues similar incentives programs have also created a strong film industry in other states, like Georgia.

The mayor said he is worried if the current program expires, the film industry will die out in North Carolina.

"Why kill a good thing," Saffo said. "We have a thousand people that work in this industry, that work here permanently and to lose a thousand jobs would be a tragedy."

Additionally, Saffo said he does not believe offering grants would be a strong enough replacement to keep the film industry going.

"We have been told by the film industry, we have been told by Disney, we've been told by every production company that's working in the state - it will not work," Saffo explained.

Lassiter said he disagrees. He said he believes the grant program will work, if it is paired with other draws like sales tax credits.

"We know the grant program has worked in some states, New Mexico has a strong grant program with a cap on it and we know that has worked," Lassiter said.

Lassiter said he believes there will be some type of film incentive in place by the time the current program ends at the end of the year; however, that decision is in the hands of lawmakers.

Rabon is one of the conferees appointed by his chamber's leadership to help negotiate a budget bill.

The state House has a grant fund option in its spending plan, and Rabon says he "is going to do his best" to see that some type of incentive is part of the Legislature's final plan.

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