Kentucky’s blossoming film industry may hit a dry spell. The state has halted consideration of new projects for a program that gives tax incentives to filmmakers working in Kentucky.
Some communities are welcoming film crews with excitement and local services, while others say the incentive is a giveaway the state cannot afford.
A spokesman for the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet says the state stopped accepting applications on Feb. 1 for new projects seeking film industry tax credits.
The film industry incentive in Kentucky launched in 2015 with 15 projects approved for about $4 million in tax credits.
Pam Thomas of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy wrote in a blog for the organization that the film industry incentive program has ballooned to 223 approved projects eligible for more than $170 million in tax credits as of the end of 2017.
Thomas said that Kentucky taxes paid by the producers and local services bought during production are far less than the money the state returns to the filmmakers.
"With the film industry credits, because most of these people are not building infrastructure in our state or creating permanent jobs, all of the research that has been done, other than research that’s been directly supported by film industry for their purposes, says that film industry tax credits are really a bad deal for states,” Thomas said.
But Edmonson County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism director Rhonda Clemmons has the opposite perspective.
"This is an industry that you don’t have to build a spec building for or have a certain type of infrastructure. It’s something that can be created within two weeks and they can be bringing money into your community.”
Clemmons is on the board of the Southern Kentucky Film Commission, which has attracted several films to Edmonson, Hart and Barren counties. The regional film commission was formed in October 2016 by the Hart County Fiscal Court.
The second movie in three months titled "Bethlehem Ranch" is currently being filmed in Edmonson County. The previous film was "Prayer Box." Clemmons says the movies are especially welcome in the economically disadvantaged community. She says nearby Mammoth Cave is a major tourist attraction, but also limits certain developments.
“We have to be environmentally conscious with our industrial efforts to not harm the cave system," said Clemmons. "So this is a form of industry that doesn’t have pollution, isn’t hurting our environment and can bring money right to our door.”
The state will honor all projects previously approved for the film industry tax credits.