Minnesota’s new film and TV tax credit will create good-paying local jobs | Opinion
The $5 million-a-year tax breaks for film and TV production is a good first step but more is needed
The Coen brothers filmed “Fargo,” starring Frances McDormand, in several Minnesota cities, including Edina, Brainerd and St. Louis Park. Supporters of a tax credit for production companies that film in Minnesota say filming would bring high paying jobs to the state. (Photo by Gramercy Pictures/Getty Images)
In the hierarchy of statewide fiscal priorities, a rebate for movie and television production feels like something that deserves to be pretty low on the list.
It’s easy to argue there are better things to spend our tax dollars on than what sounds like a giveaway to rich Hollywood producers and actors.
But as someone who writes about the television industry on a daily basis, the truth is while celebrities are the face of the entertainment industry, most of the people working in it are just regular folks: camera operators, electricians, part-time actors and tradespeople of all descriptions.
And simply put, the more production that comes to Minnesota, the more jobs will be created as a result.
“This is not an arts program. This is a jobs and economic growth program,” Melodie Bahan, executive director of Minnesota Film and Television, told me.
“We are not talking about celebrities. We are talking millions, potentially billions of dollars of revenue for the state. And these are high-paying union jobs for Minnesota residents. It’s not that we want celebrities to like us. We want to bring millions of dollars of new spending to the state.”
That’s why it’s good the Minnesota Legislature passed a $5 million-a-year tax credit for TV and film production, the first of its kind in the state.
The incentive will make Minnesota more competitive with the dozens of other states that offer similar tax breaks for production crews. But the program, set to expire in 2025, is just a first step.
The initial proposal was $25 million worth of transferable tax credits per fiscal year for 10 years. But it was reduced several times as it worked its way through the DFL-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate.
Five million dollars is minuscule compared with the largest film and TV production states like New York, California and Georgia which provide hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks annually.
But even though that figure is disappointing to some in the state’s production industry, Bahan said it will help rebuild Minnesota’s production infrastructure.
“It’s a small program, especially compared to the rest of the country,” said Bahan. “But we are thankful to have this figure to start with because frankly, we have a lot of rebuilding to do. We’ve lost a lot of workers over the past 10 years, folks who have had to move to stay in the business. So starting with $5 million a year isn’t a huge disappointment. It will give us several years to grow our infrastructure.”
The Minnesota production credit offers a cash rebate of 25% on qualified Minnesota-based productions. A $5 million yearly cap might not be enough to convince Marvel to produce the next Avengers movie in the state. But it will go a long way in building the expertise the state will need to attract more prominent films and more expensive television and streaming projects.
“If we had three or four projects that wanted to shoot here at once, we wouldn’t have the crew to cover it,” said Bahan. “One of the things I have wanted to do is create a jobs training program that moves under-employed and under-represented folks into their first job. But you can’t create a jobs training program if there are no jobs. You can’t build a soundstage if there are no projects to use it.”
In the same way that high schools need music programs and colleges need liberal arts majors, Minnesota deserves a thriving movie and television production infrastructure.
“After the past 15 months, no one can tell me that filmed content is not vital to our lives,” stressed Bahan. “And Minnesota should be part of that experience.”
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site.