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New York Spent $15 Million in Taxes To Build Upstate Film Studio. It Just Sold for $1.

"Who would have ever figured: Hollywood comes to Onondaga, right?" Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at 2014 launch.

Nick GillespieNick GillespieFew investments are more famously fraught with failure than making movies. That extends especially to states and localities that attempt to lure filmmakers to their locales via sexy and economically useless subsidies that end up costing far more than they generate in new business activity and tax revenue. As the Tax Foundation reported in 2012, film subsidy programs generate between 7 cents and 30 cents in return for each dollar spent, guaranteeing a massive loss to taxpayer for every tax credit, rebate, or other handout.

In 2014, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo championed the creation of the Central New York Film Hub near Syracuse with $15 million of taxpayer money. "Who would have ever figured: Hollywood comes to Onondaga [County], right?" Cuomo said at the time, according to The New York Times. "You would have never guessed. But it has."

Cuomo also insisted that the studio would generate at least 350 good-paying jobs related to the film industry. Instead, the facility, which was owned by the state government, was just sold for $1.

Unfortunately for local taxpayers, the buyer was Onondonga County, so the potential for continued wasting of tax dollars remains real. Syracuse.com reports that no permanent jobs have been created by the facility.

The Central New York Film Hub is something of a sequel for Gov. Cuomo, whose attempts to lure jobs to the Empire State, especially the upstate region, regularly fail. Back in 2016, for instance, it came to light that the $100 million poured into Start-Up NY, which offered tax breaks and other benefits to companies relocating to New York, had generated just 408 jobs.

When Cuomo took office in 2011, he recognized that New Yorkers already shouldered one of the highest state and local combined tax burdens in the country and boldly proclaimed that he would cut taxes, spending, and regulations to make his state friendly to business. After a few gestures in that direction, he has instead increased the burdens on job creation.

But hey, at least he got a buck back on a $15 million "investment."

In 2011, Reason's Zach Weissmueller discussed the failures of film subsidies with super-producer Gavin Polone, whose projects have included Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Gilmore Girls, Panic Room, and more.

Photo Credit: Andrew Cuomo

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  • Jerryskids||

    That's some horrible alt-text - everybody knows that's the "secret" white power salute.

  • JWatts||

    "New York Spent $15 Million in Taxes To Build Upstate Film Studio. It Just Sold for $1."

    Come on now Reason. I'm sure there were numerous campaign supporters that made a bundle off of this. How about Reason writers spending a few days digging into where the money actually went?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    He's up this year. Will New Yorkers elect him again?

  • Rhywun||

    Not only will he win again, he's lurching so far to the left that Bernie would blush.

  • Procyon Rotor||

    NYC is so blue, it keeps giving me false hope that it's about to die of asphyxia. No democrat will ever lose a statewide race in NY, and we won't be rid of Cuomo until he makes his inevitable failed run for President.

  • Silverleaf||

    Downstate (i.e. - anything south of the Pennsylvania border) is. The rest of NY is fairly red, but Albany is elected by NYC, no matter what the rest of the state has to say.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Cuomo does not like giving actual tax relief as opposed to time limited tax credits and other gimmicks so that he does not have to make structural changes to NYS tax code.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Georgia thanks you New York for pushing movie makers to the Peach State. Haha.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    Shshsh! Don't crow about this or New York might try to copy what we did!

    Not that they're capable of it, of course...

  • John's broseph||

    The reason businesses won't relocate to New York is because they, unlike government, are capable of seeing a couple years into the future. That temporary tax break won't help in 10 years when it goes away to pay for pensions. Of course government can't understand that, government is purely short term in it's outlook and engorges itself on resources today even to the detriment of tomorrow.

    See New Jersey getting pennies on the dollar from it's master settlement agreement with the tobacco companies. All because it needed the money NOW, even though it could likely end up paying more in interest than it received from settlement payments.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Cuomo also insisted that the studio would generate at least 350 good-paying jobs related to the film industry. Instead, the facility, which was owned by the state government, was just sold for $1."'

    What's missing is who made out from the shady back room deals.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    What's funny or perhaps sad is NYer's who want to call out Trump for being corrupt yet are willing to ignore their governor who put together a task force on corruption, then ended the task force when he became a target. Yeah, no corruption there.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    You mock them for making only a dollar. But I say that only a 14,999,999 dollar loss is pretty good for government.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Few investments are more famously fraught with failure than making movies.

    That's true. I'm hearing the newest Star Wars movie isn't doing that well, for example. I just read on Vox that Solo: A Star Wars Story misses a huge opportunity to explore droids as an aggrieved class with parallels to racism and slavery. I bet it's the movie's insufficiently ideological nature that's making audiences stay away.

  • Iheartskeet||

    Masterful...masterful...

  • Sevo||

    "Unfortunately for local taxpayers, the buyer was Onondonga County, so the potential for continued wasting of tax dollars remains real."

    Hey, they'll sell it for $0.25 and make it up in volume!

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Alternate Alt-Text: "This is my IQ."

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Why does Nick do that red line thing on all his images.

  • Iheartskeet||

    It appears to be a crude Keith Haring imitation

  • H-daddy||

    Cuomo needs to go. Hollywood, Bollywood, make spaghetti westerns, stuntman, ANYTHING. Just leave Albany. NY voters ought to consider Larry Sharpe; the Libertarian candidate for Governor. This sort of waste would never happen.

  • Iheartskeet||

    I'd like to think so, but as GJohnson showed in NM, even if you veto everything damn thing, the legislature just overrides you and BOOM quadrupled state debt.

    So, they all need to go. "Need" not being synonymous with "in our lifetime".

  • General_Tso||

    We lose money on every sale, but make it up on volume!

  • Iheartskeet||

    Ok, Reason. If this had been a Republican gov, the article would (correctly) reference his party, blah blah blah.

    Why no mention of Cuomo being a Democrat ?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I think you already know the answer. Reason is a Democrat operative and he only reports on stories that make Republicans look bad. His long-term goal is of course to round up all Republicans, Whites, Christians, and Gun Owners and push them into the sea.

  • Iheartskeet||

    What I already know is that you aren't very good at satire.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Out of morbid curiosity, were any movies actually made with / through / using this facility?
    Exclusively or primarily, that is.

  • Robert||

    A tax credit or rebate is not a handout.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    It is if the taxpayer gets nothing out of it.

  • Skyhawk||

    That $1 currently stands as the largest 'return' on a government 'investment' in the history of the United States.

  • Pyrrho21C||

    I expect pretty much the same outcome from our "conservative" governor Walker's bribe to Foxconn here in Wisconsin, only here we're talking about billions.

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