1 March 2012
by Alex Curtas
Latest Casualty in Volatile NM Business Climate:
Major Film Studio to Close, ABQ to Lose 100 Jobs
Yet Another Lost Opportunity for NM Workers and Businesses
ALBUQUERQUE – Adding to the job losses that have already resulted from Governor Martinez’s assault on the once-thriving New Mexico film industry, Sony Pictures Imageworks announced today that it will close its state-of-the-art visual effects studio in Albuquerque when their lease expires this summer.
The LA Times reports that, “the facility suffered from a falloff in film activity in recent years, triggered in part by uncertainty over the future of New Mexico’s film tax credit” (emphasis added).
Sony transferred 100 high-paying, creative-sector jobs from California to New Mexico when it opened the studio in 2007. Since Sony opened their satellite studio at Albuquerque Studios it has been the largest post-production operation in New Mexico.
Film production, once an emerging industry in New Mexico, has seen its growth cut off at the knees multiple times by the Martinez administration’s vendetta against film incentives. The administration’s vehement and unnecessary politicization of the film industry since Martinez took office has resulted in lost jobs, lost tax revenue, and the demoralization of a burgeoning economic sector.
Here are a few facts that reflect the volatile business climate Governor Martinez has created for film production in New Mexico:
o The motion picture and television industry was directly responsible for 3,335 jobs and paid $130.6 million in wages in New Mexico before incentives were cut in 2011.
o An estimated 14,000 students were enrolled in film training programs in New Mexico before incentives were cut.
o The New Mexico film office estimated that $4 billion in local economic impact have been realized from 159 productions in the state in the first nine years of the program.
A 2009 report found that, “The wages paid to employees of film productions and firms that are affected by film-related capital investment and tourism result in substantial induced consumer spending. This spending generates additional economic activity as New Mexico’s retailers and service providers expand to meet the additional demand for goods and services” (emphasis added). Sadly, such economic activity has again been stifled by the uncertainty fostered on this issue by the Martinez administration.
Those employed in New Mexico’s film industry, however, have been forecasting the effects of this precarious business climate for some time now. According to a New Mexico Business Weekly article from last year regarding the politicization of the film incentive program, “studio executives are distrustful of the process, with one executive noting that his studio does not want to be placed in a position to be ‘whipping boys’ in the political process.”
It seems as though Governor Martinez’s attacks on this potentially vibrant industry have done just that and whipped another major job-creator right out of town.
UPDATE: ProgressNow NM contacted Regina Chavez, Executive Director of the creative economy non-profit Creative Albuquerque, for a quote regarding the departure of Sony, and its 100 creative sector employees, from Albuquerque. Mrs. Chavez told us that, “Sony Imageworks is the type of business that is so attractive to many communities because of their high paying jobs, and the dollar ripple effect they bring to many of our local businesses. Sony raised the profile of our creative economy. Losing Sony Imageworks is a loss for all of Albuquerque.”