Originally posted on the Tampa Tribune website

Our community as well as the state of Florida has steadfastly earned its ranking in the global marketplace, and we continue to grow increasingly competitive. Those of us focused on economic development have been strategic in targeting diverse, high-quality jobs, long ago learning that our “beautiful weather and favorable tax climate” would not be enough to prosper in the new economy. We recognize the reality of financial incentives as a necessary and important ingredient for success in today’s world.

Today, Hillsborough County is focused on the high-value market of the film and digital media industry, but we need the state Legislature to re-fund the Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program to help us continue to grow our market share.

In Hillsborough, we’ve led by example and have seen the return on investment. We provided $250,000 in local incentives for the feature film, “The Infiltrator,” starring Bryan Cranston. During filming in April and May, the production created 100 high-wage jobs and invested over $2 million in our local economy. (It is too early yet to have the economic impact statement calculations completed.)

Although we are absolutely thrilled that we were chosen as one of their primary filming locations, we are also keenly aware that the Tampa Bay area lost a projected $20 million in additional economic impact due to lack of state incentives.

There is little doubt that high-impact film production projects spur high-wage job creation, investment and tourism. According to the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, our Film and Digital Media Tax Credit Program is projected to contribute about $4.1 billion in positive economic impact from 2010-16.

Technology used in film and digital media is very sophisticated, and the jobs are highly competitive and well-paying. The average wages in Florida for the film and digital media industry are over $70,000 — almost double the state’s average for all other industries.

Admittedly, not every movie is “A Dolphin Tale” with its projected five-year $500 million economic impact. That is why it makes complete sense to always require productions to reach quantifiable financial thresholds and metrics to ensure their economic impact and return on investment to the community.

Additionally, local governments need to “have skin in the game,” just as Hillsborough County has and will again.

Interestingly, much of this technology is also used in other high-tech industries such as defense and security, life sciences, modeling and simulation, and animation, and offers opportunities for cross-pollination and further development of our workforce.

However, Florida and Hillsborough again suffer a “brain-drain” effect its their technology sectors.

We spend millions of dollars annually on developing film and digital media programs at our state’s colleges, only to have graduates unable to find employment in Florida and relocate to another state.

In reality, Louisiana and Georgia have dominated this industry because they offer the greatest incentives to produce there. In fact, 37 states have film incentive programs to lure high-impact productions (and Florida was one of them.)

These states have realized that film and digital media make a significant impact on a community through immense publicity, increased tourism and new revenue generation.

I urge the Legislature to re-fund this tax credit program and help keep Florida and Hillsborough County well positioned in the film industry.

This is a clean technology sector and a creative industry. It is just the type of industry that will attract the kind of world-class projects that keep Florida at the cutting edge of innovative business development.

Ken Hagan is a Hillsborough County commissioner, elected countywide, and the longest-serving member of the board.

Click HERE to read the article on the Tampa Tribune website.