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GUEST EDITORIAL FROM THE DESK OF
REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD LINDSEY


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                                            CONTACT: Rep. Richard Lindsey
March 24, 2009                                                                                                                  334.242.7624


In light of this morningís 11:00 ceremony where Governor Riley will sign into law the Alabama Entertainment Industry Incentive Act of 2009, Representative Richard Lindsey offers the following background and insight regarding his legislation.

The Business of Entertainment is Alabamaís Next Great Opportunity


Amidst the difficulties of our legislative process something spectacular has happened. It was something that both the House and Senate agreed upon and believe it or not, they did so unanimously. To make things even better, the governor is in strong support and he will sign the related legislation into law.

So what is it that we all agreed upon? Itís a package of business incentives that will allow Alabama to compete with other states enjoying the enormous profits of the entertainment industry. 

In recent years, Louisiana has enjoyed over a billion dollar state surplus that is attributed to the entertainment industry. Successes like that have been a motivating factor, but the incentives legislation is just the start of a longer process that, if done right, could result in similar revenue here in Alabama.

Over the past five years, many individuals have been critical to the success of the legislation, but to me, one person stands out. In 2004, at the request of an investment group, a veteran of the entertainment industry made a trip from Los Angeles to Alabama. His name is Daniel Wheatcroft, and as President of Shoot to Thrill Productions, his task was to analyze their potential investment for a motion picture project. 

Upon meeting, he told me that he was impressed by Alabamaís variety of locations, dedicated workforce, weather conducive to 365 days of shooting, and our first rate education system. He was truly incredulous as to why this state was not pursuing his industry. 

Those who are experienced in the entertainment industry know that education is the key, and that most of the creative forces working in the industry come from states that have programs to retain their intellectual property and provide a place to work for the students they educate.  I was pleased that a Cherokee County cotton farmer like me would have so much in common with a Hollywood entertainment executive.

As Chairman of Alabamaís Education Finance and Appropriations Committee, I had a high level of interest in this emphasis on education and how it impacts workforce development.   Through this relationship, I began to explore the workforce created by the industry.  There are the obvious jobs of producers, actors, directors and writers, but something that I didnít expect is that over 80% of a production workforce is made up of accountants, attorneys, carpenters, electricians, computer technicians, artists, caterers, investors, and others.  The industry impacts a workforce more varied than any I have seen.  I knew we were on to something very beneficial to our state as we could easily modify our existing curriculum to match this industryís needs.

The major stumbling block was that Alabama had no incentives in place. Since the industry mandates producers to restrict production to only those states that had incentives, Alabama was excluded from consideration.  The other problem was that Alabama had no direct contacts with the industry.

Thankfully Wheatcroft had those contacts and knew how to navigate us through the industry waters. That began our five-year alliance that brought legislation and industry to work together to refine a bill that works for all parties and all 67 Alabama counties.

In the past month, the Film Office recently moved from the Alabama Development Office to the Travel and Tourism Office. It is now under the competent jurisdiction of Director Lee Sentell.  I think that Lee would agree that there is much work to be done, but I know he is up to the task.  I have advised him of the great importance to maintain the close connection with Los Angeles. 

It is an exciting time for Alabamaís entertainment industry, and I thank the legislators and supportive individuals from all over Alabama who have assisted. Because we all want to make sure itís done right, I commit to staying in touch with Director Sentell and the governor.