A bill that would raise the film tax incentives in Utah has been making its way through the legislature. Its impacts could directly affect Summit County.
The popular drama TV series Yellowstone moved production last September to Montana. The key driving factor was economic incentives offered by the state.
Utah has a budget of about $6.7 million every year towards incentives. Wasatch Back Sen. Ron Winterton is sponsoring a bill to raise the budget. His original bill proposed $15 million, however after a substitution, the bill now proposes $10 million.
A report from the Kem C. Gardener Policy Institute at the University of Utah says tax credits in 2018 incentivized more than 2,500 full and part-time jobs and $201 million of GDP in Utah. Additionally every dollar of tax credit was associated with about $14 in new state GDP.
Marshall Moore is the vice president of operations at Utah Film Studios in Quinn’s Junction. He said the Kem C. Gardener report doesn’t even account for all of the statewide spending.
“On top of that, there's millions of dollars of expenditures that are not being accounted for just because production like Yellowstone or High School Musical is in the state,” Moore said. “And shooting for six months and 300 people are working on it. And so they're out doing other things.”
Summit County saw around $7 million of direct spending during season one and two of Yellowstone, supporting 145 businesses in Summit County, 56 of which were in Park City. That spending went towards things like lodging, rentals, supplies and food and beverage, according to CEO of the Park City Chamber Bureau Jennifer Wesselhoff.
She says Yellowstone spent $2.5 million on lodging alone. Now that production is gone, she said businesses have noticed a difference.
“We did hear from businesses, especially the lodging businesses, that they were disappointed that we lost Yellowstone,” Wesselhoff said.
Gary Crandall is the owner of Utah Film Studios. He said the film industry is open to any increase in incentive, but the current proposal won’t leave much wiggle room.
“So if it goes up to 10 million, which is great, that's only going to be enough to incentivize one major production in Utah,” Crandall said. “You need major productions because they only go for about six months out of the year. And so people could work for about six months, and larger productions pay about 130% higher rate. And so it provides the crew members here in Utah pretty good living.”
Not to mention that Winterton’s bill is for a one time only tax increase, meaning after fiscal year 2022, the incentive would return to $6.7 million.
Despite a low statewide incentive, Crandall said everyday that he has owned the studio, they’ve been 100% leased out.
“We could fill up the studio pretty regularly, just on, you know, a month here a couple months there...whatever,” he said. “But it certainly isn't going to be helping the industry. So we're concerned about the future. But we're not worried about the future.”
Wesselhoff said Park City and Summit County could miss out on economic diversity if productions continue to move out of state.
“Well, I mean, the opportunity lost with programs like this, it's hard to count, calculate lost opportunities,” she said. “In this case - of Yellowstone - it's a little bit easier because we know what they spent last year. But not having an incentive or having a very low incentive, really decreases our chances to be able to be competitive for the future productions.”
Winterton’s bill passed the Senate last week, and passed a House Revenue and Taxation Committee in a 6-3 vote Monday.
The Legislative Report on KPCW is made possible, in part, by the law firm of Hoggan Lee Hutchinson at HLHParkCity.com.