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Expanded film incentive ‘a huge win for Las Cruces’


"It was a huge win for Las Cruces and Doña Ana County to double the ‘rural uplift’ film incentive to help us continue to grow film production here, and other emerging production centers in New Mexico,” state Sen. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces said.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 547, an omnibus tax bill that included the film tax credit increase, which “will continue to position our community and state as one of the best places to film in the world," said Steinborn, who worked with the New Mexico Film Office, Netflix, NBC, 828 Productions and film industry leaders to craft the legislation, where he successfully championed the increase in the rural uplift film incentive.

“The rural uplift now puts Las Cruces at a base incentive of 35 percent, whereas Albuquerque and Santa Fe are at 25 percent,” said Las Cruces Film Liaison Jonathon Sepp. “This puts Las Cruces in an advantageous position to capture even more productions looking at New Mexico, as well as those looking around the country.”

HB 547, Public Peace, Health, Safety and Welfare Tax Changes, “enacted updates gradually increase the annual cap on (film) industry tax credits from $110 million to $160 million in $10 million annual increments over the next five fiscal years,” the New Mexico Film Office said in a news release. “With the continued growth of productions in New Mexico, the increase is essential to prevent a backlog of rebates. These updates exempt resident principal performers from a $5 million credit cap per production to further incentivize local casting for leading roles.

Also included in the bill is an increase to the above-the-line credit cap from $5 million to $15 million per production for New Mexico film partners Netflix, NBCUniversal and 828 Productions, with a maximum total credit cap of $40 million per fiscal year, the news release said.

“This increase will allow New Mexico to capture larger and more lucrative productions and also bolster post-production work inside the state,” the Film Office said.

In addition, HB 547 increases the rural uplift incentive from 5 percent to 10 percent while updating the zoning to at least 60 miles from the city hall of each county to align with other jurisdictions, the news release said. In fiscal year 2022, rural areas outside the Albuquerque and Santa Fe corridor received $50 million in spend; enhancing this uplift will be a game changer for communities statewide – including areas like Doña Ana County, McKinley County and the Mescalero Apache Reservation.”

The bill maintains other existing provisions regarding New Mexico’s film partners, exempting studios from the cap that have signed a 10-year agreement with the state for sustained production spend, job creation and a commitment to soundstage infrastructure investments, the Film Office said.

In fiscal year 2022, New Mexico hit a record-breaking high in production spend for the second consecutive year, recording $855.4 million, a 36 percent increase over fiscal year 2021, the Film Office said. MovieMaker Magazine named Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces as three of the “Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker” in 2023.

The state recently announced the establishment of the New Mexico Media Academy (NMMA), led by the Economic Development Department in collaboration with the Higher Education Department and 15 of their film and media programs statewide. The academy will continue to grow the state’s industry by providing advanced training and expanding the workforce. New Mexico film partners will also be critical in developing and providing training and apprenticeships.  The headquarters of NMMA will be at the Albuquerque Rail Yards, and a satellite facility will have its home at the Creative Campus at the Arrowhead Center in Las Cruces.

The film industry has some 8,000 jobs throughout the state, the Film Office said. The median wage of a film worker in New Mexico is approximately $32 an hour, compared to other New Mexico industries at $18 an hour.

Visit filmlascruces.com and nmfilm.com.