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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Spoiler alert: The effort to establish a Minnesota state film and TV office appears headed for a happy ending.

Not that the story had a lot of suspense to begin with. The creation of the new office, under the moniker Explore Minnesota Film, is too sensible and straightforward a scenario to yield much dramatic tension. Alone among states with incentives to attract film and TV production, Minnesota has been getting along without a dedicated state film office. That created a disadvantage in competing with other states. The change is necessary and overdue.

Legislation to establish the film office has made its way into omnibus bills that have been approved in both the state House and Senate. Barring a plot twist in conference committee, Explore Minnesota Film should become a reality as the current session nears its conclusion.

The work of attracting film and TV production to Minnesota has been handled by Minnesota Film and TV, a private nonprofit agency operating on a shoestring budget and without the kind of gravitas needed to command attention in negotiations with Hollywood executives. Worse, it lacks the authority to administer the program of tax incentives that are Minnesota's chief lures for attracting movies or TV productions.

As part of Explore Minnesota, the state's tourism agency, the new film and TV office would be able to bring a greater efficiency to the state's dealings with film studios and producers. As such, it would offer those studios and producers the kind of businesslike relations that they have come to expect in their dealings with the other 37 states that offer incentives of one kind or another.

Competition among those states is fierce. (For an example of how fierce, check out from the Good For Texas campaign.) The tax incentives that Minnesota offers — in the form of transferable tax credits worth up to $25 million a year, or $200 million over the eight-year life of the current program — are considerable, and they are much more potent than the few million dollars in rebates that once formed the sum of Minnesota's inducements to film studios. But compared to the heaviest hitters, such as Georgia with $5 billion or New York with $7 billion over the life of their programs, Minnesota is still operating at a disadvantage. The new film office may help make the playing field a bit more level.

Giving money to movie studios is not always a popular use of the taxpayer's dollar. That's yet another reason it's important to have a state film office; the administration of the tax incentives must be handled with strict standards of accountability in order to preserve public confidence.

Nobody likes to be portrayed as handing out public money to Hollywood fat cats. But there is a simple arithmetic at work here: You can't subtract something from nothing. Tax credits represent funds that would not exist if the work being taxed did not exist. And the work would not exist — or rather, it would not exist in Minnesota — if Minnesota did not use incentives to bring the work to our state.

Once the work is being done here, other benefits will follow, and those benefits can more than justify the investment. Film companies employ actors, extras, crew members, casting directors, carpenters, caterers, makeup artists, hair stylists and a host of others. They book hotel rooms and restaurant tables and rental cars and dry cleaners. Even a modest film or TV series may bring many millions of dollars in economic activity to a state.

With such enormous benefits in play, it only makes sense to bring the most authoritative and efficient approach to the table. Rather than a small nonprofit whose staff must spend significant time raising their own operating budget, duly authorized state employees should be at work courting the studios, promoting Minnesota and arranging financial incentives.

Finally, we'll just note that Boston is in the middle of a casting call for extras to appear in a "Walking Dead" spinoff. The casting agency specifies that only local people need apply. Just think — someday that could be us.