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Forum Editorial Board, Published June 03 2013

Editorial: Put film incentives on agenda

North Dakota will never become the film capital of North America, but the state has the potential and the resources to gain consideration by the television and film industry as a good location to make TV shows and movies. That’s not happening now because North Dakota does not promote itself as a good place to make a movie, and hasn’t done so effectively or consistently for years.

Serious promotion takes money. Until a few years ago, North Dakota was squeezing every nickel until Jefferson squealed. While the state is appropriately conservative about spending, the coffers are filled as never before, thus presenting opportunities as never before. Getting on the filmmaking map could be one of those neglected opportunities.

The state Commerce Department through its tourism division provides guidelines to filmmakers and other segments of the entertainment industry, but they mostly tout the state’s business climate, scenic values, labor availability, and licensing and tax requirements. When it comes to incentives the industry wants, North Dakota does not measure up to other states or to Canada.

For example, one of the reasons cited in a recent report of why the new television series “Fargo” (based on the iconic film) won’t be shot in Fargo or North Dakota is the lack of incentives offered by the state and/or city. Most of the series will be shot in Canada where, the producers said, they can take advantage of tax credits that reduce labor and other costs. North Dakota has nothing close.

Minnesota is just emerging from a fiscal mess but has appropriated

$10 million to revive its stagnant film industry. The money will be used for rebates to lure small to midsize film projects. It’s not as much of a package offered by other states, including Michigan, Louisiana and Illinois, but it’s enough to get Minnesota back in the game.

North Dakota can get in the game, also. The state’s national profile has been raised by a strong energy- and agriculture-fueled economy. It has the scenic beauty, labor structure and business climate to be attractive to movie and television producers. In order to be competitive – especially as a relative newcomer – the state should cobble together a package of incentives that is attractive enough to get the industry’s attention.

Lawmakers should put the matter on the agenda during the interim between legislative sessions – and be ready to introduce legislation in 2015.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum

management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.