TAMPA — When movie makers train their lenses on Tampa Bay, the region's tourism economy will feel it.
That was the theme of a ceremony held Friday in the lobby of the Tampa Theatre to mark the official relaunch of the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.
Standing on a stage amid a bright spotlight in the historic building's lobby, business and political leaders touted film as a potential boon for the region.
"This is a segment of our economy we've been missing for a long time," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, noting that the film commission was an entity that has been dormant for several years.
Buckhorn and Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan recalled their decision last year to set aside city and county funds to relaunch the commission. The goal, they said, is to make Tampa a magnet for the film industry in Florida.
"We're working hard to make it easier to do business here," Hagan said. "This market has unlimited potential."
When film producers have chosen Florida for their projects, the state sees a boost in tourism dollars, Hagan said.
That is backed up by a recent study by MNP LLP, a Canadian public accountancy and business advisory firm. The study, which was commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of America, found that financial incentives for film production in Florida resulted in $2.3 billion in labor income, and $7.2 billion in economic spending across the state, both through production spending and induced tourism. It also found that 19.5 percent of visitors to Florida said viewing a movie or television series filmed in the state contributed to their decision to visit.
Dale Gordon, who was named executive director of the local film commission in July, showcased for attendees the commission's website, filmtampabay.com, designed to attract filmmakers to the region. It features interactive information on potential filming locations and a rundown of the film permitting process.
Commission representatives have also visited film festivals and trade shows with the goal of putting the Tampa Bay film market on the map, Gordon said. And they have talked with state legislators, seeking support for pending bills in both the House and Senate that would provide financial incentives for the state's film industry.
"We're not really going to be able to go after big projects without those," Gordon said. "This is integral to our state's success when it comes to high impact productions."
Dan Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.