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Oregon Could Attract Influencers With Incentives

July 26th, 2019 by dk

The best time to suggest even the slightest tweak to the state’s tax code is immediately after a legislative session ends. Lawmakers need time to internalize the suggestion. Once a legislator takes ownership of the idea, the complexities ahead can be navigated by that champion.

That incubation process slows innovative ideas. It may have been on the cutting edge when it was conceived, but dull or derivative when it’s born. Once it bursts into public view, it may look more like a clone than a baby.

Consider film production tax incentives. Oregon has them, but so do most other states. Everyone wants feature films to highlight the scenery and specialness of their state. Film crews spend plenty of money and the most successful projects can attract tourists for decades. How many people over the past 40 years have visited Cottage Grove, to see where Bluto’s gang disrupted the parade in “Animal House”?

Film professionals sometimes come for a tax incentive, but then stay. Oregon is a great place to live, filled with scenic vistas, but also filled with loads of interesting people. Attracting the creative class to live in Oregon provides long-term benefits. That justifies some short-term costs. Legislators like that equation. It’s the public policy version of a truism in business. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

Film production subsidies are yesterday’s news, so what will be tomorrow’s? Podcasts and video shorts.

Podcasts have a low threshold for entry. Anyone with a smart phone can start one. Videos likewise can be made with the equipment most of us carry around in our pocket. People who succeed in this arena sometimes earn a good living. They are called “influencers.”

These productions don’t take a lot of money to start, but they do require some investment from their creators. If anyone can do it, and they can do it from anywhere, why not make Oregon one of the first places to roll out the welcome mat?

The popularity of these productions will continue to increase, but eventually there will be too many of them. When that happens, there will be a shake-out. The herd will be culled, because that always happens. Nothing expands indefinitely.

It’s when things start to get harder that the most talented or ambitious will emerge from the pack. They will be hunting for advantages over their competition. That’s what Oregon could position itself to offer them.

Since most of these productions require only a modest investment to launch, Oregon should try something bold. Tax breaks for film productions in Oregon require budgets that exceed a million dollars. A tax incentive aimed at these new “influencers” should have no minimum investment required. An immediate tax benefit for small productions who are starting with nothing but a dream and an iPhone would attract talent to Oregon.

If podcasts and video shorts received even a modest tax advantage, how many “influencers” will choose Oregon for their home base? Not all will stay and not many will succeed, but the state’s investment would be small. That should be filling some legislator’s imagination during their current idle moments.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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