IGDA-Austin will have a booth at the SXSW Gaming Expo on March 13, 14 and 15 at the Palmer Events Center, in Stand 350. We’ll be showcasing game projects, presenting live demos by local game developers and handing out company-branded collectibles. But we also want your help with something else.
It’s not often that IGDA-Austin takes a particular political viewpoint, but as a chapter, we will always be in favor of anything that keeps video game production viable in Austin, and Texas in general. (You all did know that Texas is only behind California for the number of active game development projects, with a 16 percent growth from 2009 to 2012, right? Right.)
This is why the chapter supports the continued funding of the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program (TMIIIP) as administered by the Texas Film Commission, from the Office of the Governor.
As the 2015 Legislative session starts up, many well-meaning elected officials may be looking for ways to reduce state spending. The message to be conveyed here, with respect to the sentiment and agendas at work, is simple: Hands off TMIIIP, because this is a program that secures jobs in Texas and thus far has made 95 cents for every dime spent.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s office has sent support for the program to the Senate Finance Committee as of early February 2015, but we don’t want to take that for granted. We’re asking all Texas residents to look up your local representative and let them know that this program matters and should be expanded before it’s cut.
If you need more, read on.
Established by action of the 79th Legislature in 2005, TMIIIP originally had no funding for the incentive program. It wasn’t until 2007 that $22 million was allocated. That figure was raised in 2009, but cut almost in half in 2011. TMIIIP funding was then tripled by the 2013 Legislature, with a cap of $95 million available for grants to help fund film, television, commercials, music videos, visual effects and video games in Texas.
Politics in Texas being what they are, our concern is that any cuts to a successful program will hurt any momentum gained since it was originally enacted and funded. While other states offer incentives without upper limits, there are lots of reasons why people will want to live and do business in Texas. Additionally, having these industries in Texas is great inspiration to students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
TMIIIP is more of a thank-you to those who have chosen to create jobs in Texas than it is a reason to do business here all by itself.
But that doesn’t mean it should go away. If anything, it ought to be expanded according to the needs of the time. Setting it back does no good. North Carolina and Florida are finding that out following their state legislatures’ decision not to renew their programs in recent years.
- Compared many other state programs, TMIIIP has many restrictions and is much more conservative about how it handles incentives. Compare the Texas profile to New Mexico, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, California and Louisiana, as presented by Kevin P. Martin & Associates, P.C.
- TMIIIP is a grant program, not a tax credit, and the total amount of money available has had an upper limit from the beginning. (Other state tax credits and relief such as hotel occupancy, sales & use and fuel taxes are available.)
- The grant must be approved before the project begins, and is only awarded after successful completion of the project to specifications. (Richard Linklater’s film BOYHOOD was ineligible for TMIIIP grants, because it had already started production in 2002, long before TMIIIP existed.)
- The mandate includes that at least 70 percent of paid employees must be Texas residents, at least 60 percent of total production days must be completed in Texas, and at least 70 percent of the total number of paid cast members must be Texas residents.
- TMIIIP projects (not just video games) have been responsible for 9,688 full-time equivalent jobs in Texas between 2007 and 2012, and directly or indirectly helped created 15,063 jobs in Texas (including all the support businesses such as restaurants, office landlords, staffing agencies and so on), according to a report released in January 2015, commissioned by the Texas Association of Business for the House Committee on Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Production incentives specific to video game projects, according to the Texas Film Commission:
- 146 video game projects have been accepted into TMIIIP since 2008
- These projects have created 4,743 jobs; 4,177 of these were full-time equivalent positions (FTEs)
- These projects have received $28,813,287 in TMIIIP grants from the TFC
- The same projects have spent $276,051,152 in Texas due to the grants (a 9.5X return on investment!)
- In 2012 alone, TMIIIP paid $9.3 million to video game-centric projects statewide. As a result, $87.9 million was spent by TMIIIP applicants in Texas, and most of that was in Austin — $68.9 million.
What we’re asking
Contact your local representatives and tell them you support production incentives for film, TV, commercial video, music videos and video game projects in Texas.
- Tell them who you are and what you do.
- Tell them you want to stay in Texas.
- Tell them your interest in the overall health of the whole state, not just where you live.
- Tell them you don’t want corporate-backed projects to have an excuse to move elsewhere.
- Tell them about the STEM skills children could be inspired to learn as a result of moving-image industries in Texas.
- Tell them these industries are part of Texas and should continue as part of Texas.
See you at SXSW Gaming Expo!
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