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Hawaii film tax credit encourages local hiring

The success of movies like "The Descendants" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and TV shows "Lost" and "Hawaii 5-0" have state lawmakers looking at ways to draw more productions to Hawaii.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The success of movies like "The Descendants" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and TV shows "Lost" and "Hawaii 5-0" have state lawmakers looking at ways to draw more productions to Hawaii.

The goal is to find the right combination of incentives and support to grow what some lawmakers hope can become a billion dollar industry in Hawaii.

"I don't think we're doing enough," said Sen. Pohai Ryan, D-Lanikai-Waimanalo. "I think it's a major industry. I think it could be bigger than tourism."

Ryan spoke at a Senate Ways and Means Committee hearing Monday, where members discussed a multifaceted bill intended to draw more film, television and digital media production to Hawaii.

A significant difference between Senate Bill 2111 and existing motion picture tax credits is a new emphasis on job creation.

Five other states require production companies to hire a minimum percentage of local residents in order to qualify for tax breaks. However, Sen. Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, explained that industry stakeholders have raised concerns about whether enough trained professionals currently live in Hawaii.

Instead of setting a quota, Fukunaga suggested following the lead of 15 other states by using supplemental awards to encourage productions to hire locally.

"It's kind of a hybrid, trying to capitalize on the best of those states that do have a specific percentage requirement on hiring local residents," said Fukunaga, D-Lower Makiki-Punchbowl,

In addition to providing tax credits, the proposal also puts infrastructure in place to make Hawaii more attractive to film companies. It would also support opportunities for training a local workforce.

The measure's authors also say the bill would give Hawaii's tourism industry an international marketing advantage.

The bill is now headed to the Senate floor. If passed, it will be sent to the House for consideration.