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Small businesses rally for film

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With the sunset of North Carolina’s film incentive program at the end of 2014, small businesses are organizing to lobby for the program’s reinstatement while bracing for a drop in local business.

Now with a roster of 229 members, the Small Business for Film organization was founded by a core group of Wilmington small businesses that profited directly and indirectly from the film industry.

Julia’s Florist is one of those founding members and owner Dana Cook said the loss of film productions in southeastern North Carolina would damage her business as well as many other small businesses across the state.

“When we lost the film incentives and got the small grant program we have now, small businesses all just shook our heads,” Cook said. “We are so negatively impacted by the loss of many of these productions and there are several businesses in the community that rely on those productions to make their business projections.”

Cook said the list of small businesses that benefitted from the film industry is expansive and diverse, from restaurants and caterers to businesses creating items for the sets like sign makers, clothiers, antique merchants and hardware stores.

Cook said she had orders every single week of the year from the film industry, with some as large as decorating an entire house with Christmas-themed arrangements for the ABC television show “Secrets and Lies.”

“When Jennifer Aniston got engaged, all the agencies she works with were calling us to send her congratulatory arrangements for her engagement while she was here filming ‘We’re the Millers,’” she said. “Last year when they were filming ‘Iron Man 3’ Robert Downey Jr. wanted his house full of flowers so we were going in there every week with several fresh arrangements.”

Fresh from a discussion about film incentives with leaders from the City of Wilmington Friday, Jan. 23, newly elected N.C. Senator Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, said the message of the Small Business for Film organization would be a powerful one and a tool for him, and Representatives Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, and Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover.

“I think the Small Business for Film group that has been organized is going to be able to convey that message in a very powerful way,” Lee said. “Republican senators really listen to and value small businesses because they are the largest employer in North Carolina, and to have them organized like that is really important, and it will help me, Ted and Susi as we continue to advocate for the film incentives.”

Lee said he hopes his fellow legislators understand the impact the film industry has on economic development within the state.

“I think the main thing is the film incentive does not benefit the Hollywood executives, they don’t pay taxes here,” Lee said. “The film incentive really is about the only small business incentive we have here in North Carolina.”

Still hopeful, Cook said she thinks Small Business for Film will help illustrate just how many different people were affected by the decision to cut the film incentive program.

“You never really think about how far reaching those roots are,” Cook said. “We really want to send a clear message to Raleigh that there is a significant impact to the business community over this decision.”

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