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Texas Business Report: Transformers to Invade Texas

Scenes for Transformers 4 will be filmed in Central Texas, bringing millions to the local economy.

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Director Michael Bay will shoot portions of the fourth “Transformers” movie in a handful of Central Texas towns including Elgin, Pflugerville, Taylor and Lockhart, the Austin American-Statesman reported this week. The Austin Film Commission expects that “dozens of film crew will be called up and millions will be spent locally,” calling the project “a windfall for all kinds of small businesses as well as the hospitality industry.” 

The Statesman reports the production will probably not seek Texas Film Commission incentives, as most filming will not take place in the state. Bay also plans to shoot the sequel on location in China, Chicago and Michigan. The film, which will begin the month-long Texas shoot in June, is targeted for a summer 2014 release.

The Bottom Line: “Transformers” may bring more excitement to Taylor than the tiny rural town has ever seen. The Dallas Morning News reports the filming there will include a high-speed police chase downtown and on a railroad overpass. “I know there will be things exploded in Taylor for sure,” the head of the AFC told the newspaper.

Gone Fission

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is putting the brakes on plans to build two nuclear reactors in South Texas because a non–U.S. company is playing a large role in overseeing the project. According to the San Antonio Express-News, federal law prevents the NRC from granting licenses to “companies that are owned, controlled or ‘dominated’ by a foreign individual, company or country.” The reactors would be an expansion at the South Texas Project nuclear facility in Matagorda County, near Bay City.

The holding company filing for the license, Nuclear Innovation North America, is a partnership between Houston-based NRG Energy Inc. and Toshiba Corp., which is headquartered in Japan. Although NRG owns 90 percent of the partnership, Toshiba is footing the full bill for the licensing process, which is the sticking point for the NRC.

The Bottom Line: NINA plans to appeal the ruling in federal court, but regulators are standing their ground: An NRC spokesman told the Dallas Morning News that the agency would not approve the license until the partners “come up with a different corporate ownership structure” and “prove day-to-day control of the company lies within the United States.”

Taxes Toast

The Texas Senate plans to expand proposed tax-cutting measures to benefit “research-driven businesses and broadband and telecom companies,” the Dallas Morning News reported this week. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst outlined a plan for about $1.3 billion in franchise tax breaks that could find their way into the 2014-2015 budget, including: $200 million for small businesses that earn less than $1 million annually; $240 million for R&D firms; $50 million a year for telecom, Internet and cable companies; and other cuts that could be drawn from the state’s rainy day fund or general revenue pool.

The Bottom Line: Dewhurst’s proposal represents the middle ground between Governor Rick Perry—who wants $1.8 billion in cuts—and lawmakers from both parties in the House, who “have been less enthusiastic about passing big tax cuts, citing deep budget cuts from 2011,” according to the Morning News.

Winners of the Week: Extreme Sports Fans

ESPN announced Tuesday that Austin has been selected as one of four finalists in a bid to host the network’s extreme-sports competition, the Summer X Games, for three years starting in 2014. The other three potential host cities are Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte, and Austin beat out fellow Texas contenders Houston and Fort Worth, reports The Austin American-Statesman.

The event—which features skateboarding, Motocross, BMX cycling and other action sports—reaches an international audience of about 400 million viewers and could generate as much as $50 million for the local economy, according to The Austin Business Journal. If Austin wins the bid, it would hold the games at the Circuit of the Americas track, which also hosts the Formula One Grand Prix.

Loser of the Week: Southwest Airlines

The U.S. Department of Transportation fined Southwest Airlines $150,000 this week for “failing to give timely responses to passenger complaints” in 2011 and 2012, The Los Angeles Times reports. The complaints came from customers who accused the Dallas-based airline of failing to provide adequate access for the disabled—but due to a website glitch, Southwest says it wasn’t aware of the comments until seven months after they were submitted, according to the newspaper. Federal law requires airlines to respond in writing to disability-related complaints within thirty days.

However, Southwest has already made good on the late responses, refunding the tickets of all customers involved in the dispute.

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