Tampa Bay & Company was at a tipping point when HCP became engaged. The organization needed direction regarding the future of film in Hillsborough County. Was there a need for a film office? What would it look like? How would it function? Who would lead it? There were more questions than answers at the onset.
HCP set off to develop a study. This study incorporated multiple components—a series of key stakeholder interviews from those in the industry both locally and nationally, a statewide survey of industry professionals, a review of other film commission offices, and an analysis of local and state incentive programs. The information gathered served as the basis of a report with specific recommendations outlined.
The results provided local leadership with some sobering statistics, which made them realize how deficient we were as a community—and this had not always been the case. It was evident that over a period of time our talented production crews were leaving and not coming back as a result of the lack of consistent work; professionals took the lack of a commissioner as an indicator of apathy towards the industry and their talents, choosing to relocate to markets with an active presence.
The findings brought to the surface the region’s obligation to take a closer look at the program and create a solution that positively impacted our community going forward. Conversations with film offices around the country helped highlight the strengths and drawbacks of various models; many of the offices had transitioned over the years from one to another and could truly speak to the differences.
Presentations of study findings and recommendations to the Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Visit Tampa Bay, Hillsborough County, and The City of Tampa resulted in a formalized plan to revitalize the film and digital media industry. The office ultimately became the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.
The group worked to re-cast the film commission into a standalone, independent entity, supported by all of the organizations. Feedback from out-of-market commissions made it clear that cross-organizational public support and collaboration would be vital to its long-term success. This would also serve to publicly profess to the production community that Tampa/Hillsborough County is committed to growing this industry for generations to come.
The immediate need was for someone to take the helm. HCP was asked to collaborate with a committee to determine the proper qualifications and proceed with a vetting and interview process. Interviews and background evaluations of a series of qualified candidates resulted in the hiring of Dale Gordon in the commissioner role.
Following the hiring of Commissioner Gordon, a task force of local public officials was put together and a plan developed, which included reaching out to the professional community and building an Advisory Board of individuals willing to work through many of the regional challenges. The Advisory Board continues to look at all the issues for the region and the state including local and state incentives, education, and job growth. The mission is to quickly advance the region to be on a level playing field with Orlando and Miami.