REGIONALREPORT EasternReady to roll credits
North Carolina’s film industry — soaring since the General Assembly sweetened tax credits for feature films, television shows and commercials in 2009 — might have its wings clipped as Republicans seek to reform the state tax code. One bill in the House would eliminate the credit, which reimburses 25% of qualifying expenses up to $20 million, and instead waive equivalent tax liability the company amasses over five years. That measure is co-sponsored by two Republican lawmakers — Rick Catlin, from New Hanover County, and Chris Millis, representing Onslow and Pender counties — whose coastal region attracts the most filming. But Johnny Griffin, director of Wilmington Regional Film Commission Inc., says the proposal would be worthless. “The companies that we are dealing with are mainly coming here, spending money and then leaving.”
The credit is probably safe — for now. In April, the bill was referred to the rules, calendar and operations committee, where many end up collecting dust. But a larger threat looms. A recent memo from the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division to state Sen. Bob Rucho, a champion of tax reform, questioned the effectiveness of the credit, saying productions only created 55 to 70 new jobs in 2011 despite being eligible for $37.5 million in credits. An equal across-the-board reduction of business taxes would have generated 290 to 350 more jobs, the memo claimed. Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation says film incentives nationwide rose from just $3 million in 2000 to about $1.3 billion in 2011, but several states are dropping them. Set to expire in 2015, North Carolina credits helped lure movies such as Iron Man 3, The Hunger Games and Safe Haven. Griffin says changing policy will affect the way companies calculate production costs — and where they film. “If you just tweak it by 1%, you may say it’s only 1%, but that is now factored into the formula for the industry.””
PEMBROKE — Trinity Frozen Foods will build a sweet-potato processing plant here, investing $15 million and creating 149 jobs within three years. The Charlotte-based company plans to produce 12 million to 15 million pounds of sweet-potato fries yearly, eventually expanding to 50 million pounds.
FAYETTEVILLE — Fort Bragg privatized its guest lodging, turning operations over to United Kingdom-based InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns brands such as Holiday Inn. The company is expected to make $60 million in improvements over eight years.
FAIR BLUFF — Cary-based Ply Gem Industries, which makes vinyl siding and other building-exterior products, will invest $15.5 million to expand operations and add 145 jobs to its local workforce of about 100 within three years. Annual wages will average $45,730, higher than Columbus County’s average of $31,605.
WILMINGTON — The Fuzzy Peach will add 15 stores to its 11 after securing franchise agreements in South Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and West Virginia. Opening dates have not been announced. The frozen-yogurt seller was started in 2010 by three UNC Wilmington graduates.
NEW BERN —PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi announced the company will hold its annual shareholder meeting here every year, a nod to the city being the birthplace of its signature soft drink. The Purchase, N.Y.-based company first held the meeting here in 2012.