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Editorial: Incentives to Movie Industry are not Just Another Boondoggle for the Arts


Lately, there have been a lot of swings taken at proposed efforts to lure businesses to the local economy. It goes without saying, that anytime one encounters a scenario where governments are urged to give "incentives" to businesses, they are likely to find a certain level of graft. In some cases, economic calamities have been used as a license to raid the treasury and endow private businesses to "fix" the problem.

The recent banking crisis, in which large financial institutions were "bailed out" with nearly a trillion dollars in taxpayer money, supposedly to shore up their books and prevent an impending disaster, is a case in point that. It has left Americans understandably weary about cushy breaks for large businesses.

However, the fact remains that we must do more to diversify both our local and state economies. Having relied for far too long on development and tourism, we have learned all too well, the vulnerabilities of those economic engines. It is true that Florida is already a very business friendly state, with low corporate tax rates and plenty of corporate relocation incentives. Businesses also benefit from being able to lure top talent, by way of a warm weather climate, no state income taxes, and a relatively low cost of living.

It would have been nice if Florida would have placed greater emphasis on diversification decades ago, just as its top economists had suggested, but now that our national economic slump has increased competition for industry, it is fair to assume that we will have to get more creative.

As part of the "Jobs for Florida" legislation recently signed into law, our state will enhance incentives to the film industry in an effort to induce more production companies to cast their films in Florida. The film industry already employees just over 100,000 Floridians at an average salary of $57,700. Many locals have labeled the aid as just another example of more tax money being thrown at the arts, but those are impressive employment figures.

How much influence the incentives will have remains to be seen, but a similar effort in New Orleans has already had noticeable results. Feature films starring big names like Val Kilmer and Nicholas Cage were recently filmed in the Big Easy, and HBO has set their latest Sunday night hit, Treme, in New Orleans as well.

Aside from providing high paying jobs, movies being filmed locally provide a great opportunity to showcase the beauty and culture of our area. The white sands of Siesta Key and Holmes Beach, the drive over the Ringling Causeway, St. Armand's Circle, and the Ringling grounds would all look great on the silver screen. Imagine what a boost it could give tourism or how many viewers (and business owners) might even consider relocating. I say: lights, camera, action. Let's bring Hollywood to the sun coast!


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