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Mark Washburn: Farewell to friends we can afford no more

Mark Washburn
Mark Washburn writes television and radio commentary for The Charlotte Observer.
Filming Homeland
Robert Lahser - rlahser@charlotteobserver.com
Claire Danes, star of Showtime's 'Homeland.'

This is an absolute travesty.

I just don’t know to whom.

I’ve long been conflicted on North Carolina’s crush on the film industry. To make the sector grow, we’ve offered kickbacks of up to 25 percent on qualifying spending.

Last year the industry had its best year of activity yet in the state. “Homeland” shot another season here in Charlywood, and down on the coast, major projects including CBS’ “Dome” roosted in the port city of Filmington.

But now the legislature appears to have cut back on the goodies. Industry supporters say we can expect the industry to go away.

It’s been an OK businesses for us. We got some glamour from “Hunger Games” and “Banshee.”

There were decent jobs attached to the productions, many with union-size paychecks. Food got catered, lumber got bought, locations got rented. It was a nonpolluting industry that behaved itself and spun off a thrill or two.

We liked having you, Hollywood, and we know you’d like to stay.

If we pay you.

Our state’s amenities – majestic mountains, a first-rate ocean, big cities and small towns, an experienced and professional workforce – aren’t enough. Our film friends will be going south now that our incentive piñata is flat.

They will go to Georgia and Louisiana, which offer fatter kickbacks. We were atop the incentive pile, and now we’ve tumbled into the middle.

This is why I’m conflicted. I don’t know of another industry that qualifies for a 25 percent tax rebate on expenses from the state, and neither do you, because there isn’t one.

We don’t make such a deal for finance or aerospace or energy or any of the other booming sectors of our local economy. They are succeeding nicely and growing well, drawn by our brainpower and climate.

Such businesses might be a better investment than the film business. Their roots seem to go deeper and their presence seems more assured.

And we don’t have to pay them to be our friends.

So, farewell, Hollywood. It’s been fun.

We understand your need to move on. We know you’ll understand our need to put our money elsewhere. This year, we’re going to invest a little in our future and put some money into teachers.

Sorry, but that’s showbiz.

Washburn: 704-358-5007
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