Officials move to bring major movie productions to Hillsborough County

It could soon be lights, camera, action in Hillsborough County after commissioners voted to explore a partnership that would bring a large-scale film studio to the area. The hope is to lure major brands and productions to the county.

The county will start accepting proposals from the private sector to possibly build a large-scale production studio in the area as a way to attract larger projects.

"These larger productions would hire more local workers, rent local buildings or other properties for on-location shoots, book more local hotel room nights, and buy more local goods and services," Commissioner Ken Hagan said during the meeting. "All of which would generate more in local sales taxes and hotel taxes."

The Hillsborough County Film Commission completed a study late last year identifying the challenges Hillsborough faces to increase the amount of professional film and commercial productions. One of those was the lack of large studio space.

"To stay competitive Hillsborough County needs a multifaceted film complex with a priority in workforce training, educational partnerships, community access and competitive tools and rates for all Hillsborough County production companies," explained Tyler Martinolich with Film Tampa Bay.

He says this type of project would be an investment in the community, not a single company or building.

However, not all commissioners believe local government should get involved in this way.

"I just don’t feel that our county should take this on with our scarce County tax dollars that have so many other public purposes to put them to right now," Commissioner Mariella Smith said.

Hagan maintains the studio is an economic development project that should drive job creation.

The request is open-ended and flexible allowing for a wide range of proposals and locations. By approving the RFP, the board is not locked into anything, it just opens the door to see what collaborations might be out there.

"By going forward with this that in no way implies that I’m going to support it down the road, I think it just then gives us the opportunity to get more information back," said Commissioner Harry Cohen.

The proposals are expected to be received later this summer, with a public ranking of those released in the fall.