A Question Of Worth And Cost As It Relates To Selling Our Community Out To Costner’s Yellowstone

by Travis Mateer

How much is this picture worth, Missoula?

The question of what the man on the right (Kevin Costner) can do for our community is being discussed in Helena in preparation for pushing through a bigger tax credit next session. Here are some numbers from a well-timed Missoulian article that came out on the heels of the above photo-op.

An economic impact consultant gave a presentation showing how 195 different productions have filmed in Montana since the law was created, and they spent $192 million in the state. Film industry advocates strongly urged the committee to explore raising the cap to between $50 million and $150 million to allow Montana to compete with other states. They claim that’s necessary to encourage further growth of the industry, which they say supports Montana businesses, creates local jobs and doesn’t pollute the state’s treasured outdoor areas.

I did a little unintentional research over the past 48 hours during a brief getaway into the mountains. Before heading to the hills, I lunched in Hamilton and inquired how the feelings on the Yellowstone production were.

The response was positive regarding the impact on local business, but when I mentioned the cultural impact of bringing more people to Montana amidst the housing crisis, the servers all referenced family and friends who have moved away because they can’t afford to stay. I wonder if this reported tourism boom has anything to do about it (from Newsy at Missoula Current, emphasis mine):

report by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research found “Yellowstone” brought more than $85 million in additional spending to Montana, with nearly $100,000 alone spent on parking.

The report, funded in part by Paramount, also found season four of the show meant a collective $25 million in income for some Montana residents. 

Tourism spending wasn’t included in the study, but economists say it’s big.  

“It’s tangible, whether people like it or not,” said Patrick Barkey, with the Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “There’s a lot more people that know about Montana, at least from an imagery point of view, than did before this series really took off.”

On top of tourism, the University of Montana report found 233 people moved to Big Sky country to work on the show, but there’s more: Fans are also calling realtors

Getting back to the Missoulian article, here’s how two Republicans are thinking about subsidizing Kevin Costner and his buddies in these tough times:

Two Republican members of the committee, Sen. Greg Hertz and Sen. Mike Lang, both expressed support for the idea of at least maybe introducing a bill next session to raise the cap.

“This is a difficult industry,” Hertz said. “It’s got a lot of competition across the United States. It’s a good clean industry. It helps Montana, it helps a lot of rural communities. The question here is how do we continue to nurture this industry without getting too excessive and having a big impact on our treasury?”

To the people pushing tax breaks for film makers like Kevin Costner, people eager to say things like NO POLLUTION and IT’S A GOOD, CLEAN INDUSTRY, explain to me the benefit of employing private security dudes like this guy:

This dude approached me on June 1st on a public sidewalk after I wrapped up a brief segment of on-the-ground reporting. I asked him why he seemed to be trying to detain me on a sidewalk and he said I was being very loud, to which I asked him if he was a cop or private security. He wouldn’t answer that question, and because I noticed real cops crossing the street toward me, I decided to leave. I recorded a second brief segment as I was returning to my studio to capture the dark SUV lurking in the alley.

After that daytime interaction with this alleged private security dude, I saw him between Reds and the Bodega, so I took this pic of him, which he didn’t like and let me know by trying to physically intimidate me. I’d love to know which private security firm this joker works at.

Before getting to the footage I recorded on June 1st, I’d like to remind readers (especially new ones) that private security in Missoula has been a growing interest of mine and because of my tenacious interest the city has been doing damage control since March.

Now it’s June, and NBC Montana reported a few weeks ago about some well-deserved skepticism amongst a few members of City Council. From the link (emphasis mine):

In August, the city of Missoula will look at renewing its contract with Rogers International to patrol and provide security around the Poverello Center, Johnson Street shelter, and authorized campsite.

City Council received a presentation Wednesday on how the first contract is working out and areas that can be improved with the next contract.

Rogers began providing security about 10 months ago, and in that time there have been four use-of-force instances with tasers.

None of the incidents resulted in criminal charges against Rogers International.

If the measure of success for Rogers International is that their staff remain free of criminal charges after zapping homeless people who step out of line, well, RENEW THAT CONTRACT!

And how about those detractors? How much space did they get in the article? Was it a sad little tag at the bottom?

Some City Council members disagree with having armed security guards patrol these areas and would like to see changes going forward.

Yep, that little quote is at the end of the article, and it’s the beginning AND end of how Council criticism was depicted. Considering internal changes at NBC Montana, I’m not surprised.

Getting back to Yellowstone, I was returning yesterday from the wilderness and got a chance to see, near Darby, the spot where all the production staff are living. There was private security at the gate AND a Sheriff deputy across the street parked on the shoulder of Highway 93 like it’s his job. Maybe it is.

A Republican who seems to take his job seriously did offer a different perspective on the tax credit. From the Missoulian article:

Sen. Brian Hoven, also a Republican, said he is opposed to the tax credit because the amount of tax revenue generated to the state by only the film companies that utilized the tax credit was just $7.8 million. Therefore, in his view, the state is losing money because the tax credit cost the state $20.3 million.

“I think the film industry is very glamorous,” he said. “The film stars are here, they show up, they bring people to rural communities, there’s a lot of money. It’s exciting, it’s great. But unfortunately, it doesn’t bring money into the state treasury.”

Hoven said he’s read articles in the Wall Street Journal that provide evidence that film tax credits don’t pay for themselves. Hoven said the state’s director of the Department of Revenue under the administration of former Gov. Steve Bullock insisted on having a cap on the credit because he “knew it would be a drain on the treasury.”

I don’t know about a drain on the treasury, but on June 1st the whole charade provided a major drain on my patience, which you can see here.

Thanks for reading. And watching!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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1 Response to A Question Of Worth And Cost As It Relates To Selling Our Community Out To Costner’s Yellowstone

  1. BB says:

    Kevin Costner is the 2022 Calgary Stampede Parade marshall. Yahoo!

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