Originally posted on Orlando Business Journal website, by Cindy Barth, Editor- Orlando Business Journal
Let me begin this week’s editor’s notebook with a confession: I am a film geek who not only used to cover the industry for Orlando Business Journal back in my reporter days, but I also am a huge fan of the medium. Which brings us to why Florida lawmakers should address the industry’s need for incentives in this upcoming legislative special session.
When the incentives program started in 2010, its $296 million in funds was supposed to last until 2016. Instead, more than 300 projects were approved quickly, running the fund dry by 2014. And while the payoff was nearly $1 billion in total wages for 100,000 Floridians, $1.5 billion in spending and 248,660 estimated room nights for people working on projects in Florida, lawmakers weren’t anxious to give out more money for future projects.
Which was too bad, because other states leapt into the incentives fray and lured business away from here. Just talk to Sheena Fowler in the local film office. She can give you a detailed list of missed opportunities.
So why is this important not only for the state, but Central Florida, as well? It truly is simple economics based on building an industry in which film and production crews come into town, set up their shooting locations, spend money here and generate a lot of economic return for the region. In fact, reports show that advancement of the industry through incentives could create 50,000 new jobs in the state and $500 million a year in economic impact.
Plus, the bill that was filed this legislative session — which pretty much got lost in the wrangling over expansion of Medicaid and budget issues — also defines other ways for projects to gain more incentives, including filming in underused Florida counties, creating a Florida promotional video using project team members and hosting a preview event in the area where the project was produced.
And because there are hoops to jump through to qualify for the incentives, they really are fool-proof as far as companies being awarded money but not following through on doing what they said they would do. No do = no funds.
That’s why Film Florida last week sent letters to Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Andy Gardiner and Speaker of the House Steve Crisafulli formally requesting that the entertainment industry be on the June special session’s agenda. Then last Friday, Film Florida launched an online petition asking them for the same — a petition that already has garnered thousands of signatures.
Action on this request should be a no-brainer for state officials. We know from its historical data that incentives do what they’re designed to do: employ Floridians and generate millions in economic impact.
It seems everyone else around the country understands the importance of this industry and is putting money behind their beliefs. Certainly, the Legislature should get busy on a state budget and how we’re going to help the most low-income Floridians access health care. But we shouldn’t items like the film incentives to get lost along the way.
Click HERE to read the article on the Orlando Business Journal website.