Governor Cooper is once again ignoring the economic disaster created by his continued closure mandates while cavalierly promoting a give-away grant program for the film industry that has questionable benefits for the state. The obvious lack of empathy displayed in this and other announcements as thousands of businesses remain closed by the governor is getting tiresome.
Last week the governor proudly announced that film grants amounting to $25,531,624 are targeted to production companies who have promised to begin new projects anticipated to generate $107 million in expenditures and create 8,671 jobs. But as is the case in all these give-away opportunities, the devil is in the details.
The first detail is identifying the expenditures. There will be services required but the investments will be one-off items such as catering and construction expenses that will be categorized as temporary, so will not require nor benefit any unemployment support. Once the job is done, the employee is left without a job and because the jobs are classified as temporary or casual labor, no unemployment benefits are paid on their behalf.
The second detail is that many of the services rendered will come from outside the state. In those cases the outside contractor will locate in the state for the duration of the filming with the monies paid and accounted for as expenditures within the scope of the grant. In reality, the outside vendor, like the other providers, are temporary and not generating any long term benefits for the state’s economy.
Four film productions are planned with two in Wilmington and the others in Charlotte. Both communities are located in Tier-3 counties that are already very financially sound and will be even better off because of the grants.
The two Charlotte productions include “A Nashville Christmas Carol” receiving $1.125 million in state grant money and “Delilah” receiving $5,406,624. The two Wilmington productions benefiting from state funded grants are “Parkside” receiving $7 million, and “Hightown” targeted to receive $12 million,
It is not coincidental that this and previous announcements are happening now. The governor is using an age-old process of creating positive news about his administration as he runs for a second term. Earlier this month Governor Cooper, with the aid of the legislature - Republican legislators no less - announced an $18 million plus grant to establish a USGA complex to be located in Pinehurst in Moore county, another Tier 3 or high wealth community.
Announcements of this kind at this time of the political cycle are nothing new. But in the current economy with businesses closed either directly or indirectly because of the governor’s mandate to “bend the curve” as the nation and state avoid the COVVID-19 pandemic is unique and troubling considering the economic impact of his mandates.
The state has easily bypassed the anticipated threat of overwhelming medical services with patients from the pandemic and in fact data shows the COVID-19 cases declining. Yet the mandates remain in place shuttering thousands of small, taxpaying businesses and forcing almost 6.5% of the state’s workforce onto the unemployment lines and thousands more to drop out of the work force due to frustration with their job prospects.
Even though these taxpayer-funded grants support television programs, there is a certain irony to this announcement. As the governor is promoting the film industry with his politically motivated largesse, he is maintaining his closure mandates on a key component of that industry - movie theaters.
Maybe the film producers and their staff can point out the contrast of feeding the film industry on one hand while restricting its future on the other and prod the governor to open theaters and other businesses statewide. If that were to happen North Carolina’s economy could get rolling again which would be one major benefit to the governor’s gift.