Should the GA Tax Incentive Have a Local Hire Provision?

A new story about Georgia's film industry seems to come out every two to three days at this point. Although the names of the most recent films to shoot in town change, and the economic impact number grows with each new story, there's never terribly too much new info in them.  I'm not complaining that much though, because as a often repeated message, all that talk is likely insulating the incentives from any future political attacks for at least a good number of years. Getting to my main point, Decatur Metro commented on one of the AJC's recent pieces, highlighting the portions about Decatur's speedy, one permit process, among other things. Down in the comments section this caught my eye:

Steve W. says: December 8, 2010 at 1:31 pm Being in the industry, having the productions come to Georgia is a good thing. But, the issue is that the companies that come here are not required to hire locals. Yes, locals are getting some of the work, but with no requirement, a lot of us that are in the more specialized positions are often left out or get little work. Some states require that a percentage of the crew has to be local in order to get the tax cuts, but Georgia doesn’t fall in that category. As far as bringing money into the area, yes, tv/film does raise revenue for local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants. I think if the tax incentives were rewritten with a clause that they had to hire locals, it would be a win all around.

It took about six months after the incentives kicked in and Georgia started seeing an up tick in production for the first grumblings about local hires popped up. And on a base level, those folks have a point. The incentives are about job creation.

However, if people are really relying on outside productions to be the main source of new jobs, we've got a few problems.

First, we are getting jobs. Out of a 100 production slots on BET's The Game, 70 of them are local hires. And reports on shows like The Walking Dead and films like X-Men: First Class is that as they are seeing Atlanta as a true production town they've increased the number of local hires.

Second, film is a who you know, work with your core crew, kind of business. That's not a result of a cut throat world of backstabbing and David Mamet like rants. Nope, that's a result of the fact that when you're in a business where speed is the key, and you're going to be in the "trenches" for 14 to 16 hour days, in all manner of conditions--like a Marine in battle--you want to know the cat next to you has your back and will carry their load.

Third point, requiring companies to hire locally hasn't appeared to have been super successful in other states. In fact, it's scared off many companies. Okay, there's a lot of anecdotal evidence, hardly admissible in a court of law. Yet, looking at the states that have the clause, I challenge anyone to name me more than a handful that have used the requirement to fuel any meaningful improvement in the health of their production community.

Also, if you look at what's happened in other states, the"No Permanent Jobs" narrative has killed incentives before they've even started working. Now, those same folks who were complaining, are now going back to their legislatures and are trying to convince their elected officials to recommit to the programs they were bashing just months earlier.

Fourth, why should they hire locally? For positions that productions could hire locally, yet aren't, there are two possible reasons for that. Either one, they don't know about the people who are here. Or two, we don't have folks who have the experience or the training productions are looking for.

I have heard from more than a few people that it's not so much the former, as it's the later. Even companies that are based here have admitted they've run out of qualified applicants and they've started recruiting out of state for some positions.

For those spots we do have the crew, we definitely have to do a better job of making it known we've got the manpower. However, in the long term, we have to ensure we're turning out folks who are truly ready to be plugged into productions. If there are deficiencies let's not argue that outside folks are just looking for excuses to not bring on locals. We always need to take a deeper look and treat those concerns seriously.

Fifth, yet most important, we can't rely on outside production to bring "permanent" jobs, only on bringing a steady flow of projects and a state of near "permanent" work.

As an offshoot of their on going presence, we should be fostering an environment that allows us to further build up our production community with homegrown companies and indigenous filmmakers.

Even if we we're getting substantially more jobs from out of state, we should always be looking at creating more Turners, Rainforests and Tyler Perrys who are rooted here. It's these folks who will have a much more vested interest in what's happening here than anyone coming outside of the state. They'll also be the ones, hopefully, pushing to tell more regionally and locally based stories.

We should also be looking at our role in aiding production in other states. I'm one who firmly believes that a healthy Southeast and a healthy Georgia go hand in hand it when comes to productions. Film doesn't work only state by state, production doesn't flow like that. A Southeast that's production ready across the board benefits all of us.