Walt Disney got better deal than a Florida tax credit

By   /   April 21, 2014  /   No Comments

By Chuck Elderd

In reference to Florida Watchdog’s recent story by Will Patrick about Florida’s film subsidies, I take issue with a quote from Sam Staley, director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University.

“The state of Florida is already a good place to build a business. Walt Disney World didn’t come here because they got a tax credit.”

While it may be true that Disney World didn’t get a ‘tax credit” back in the 1960s, Disney did receive something far more valuable. An incentive that many legislators say will never be offered again to any business … Disney World is its own city!

DEALERS: Walt Disney World got a great deal from Florida. It's a city.

DEALERS: Walt Disney World got a great deal from Florida. It’s a city.

According to Wikipedia, The Reedy Creek Improvement District is a “taxing district” that can write its own codes and control its land mass like a city. As I recall from my early knowledge of the Reedy Creek Improvement District going back to the 1970s, it was a unique “one of a kind” incentive in that its “citizens” or its “constituency” number only 5 individuals, all appointed by Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District ‘government’. I would say that the Legislature went a good deal past a “tax credit incentive” to make Florida attractive to Walt Disney World, well beyond its “aesthetic appeal.”

Finally, you will find it interesting to note that, while Disney World has a sizable investment in the state of Florida, Disney’s Film and TV Division cannot consider filming anywhere until all efforts to secure incentives have been exhausted, even in California as well as Florida. Narrowing in on analyzing just ‘tax credits’ is convenient, but not the proper comparison.

The state of Florida’s film incentive is regarded as a very conservative incentive at approximately a little more 20 percent of a film company’s budget. Film Florida has published that the state of Florida’s Film Incentive has “$1 = $15 economic impact” as a “return on investment.” As a film commissioner for Palm Beach County for more than 20 years, I can assure you it takes a great deal more than “aesthetic appeal” and free-easy-one-stop permitting to attract film and TV production. It takes attractive and proven industry incentives that have a long-term commitment from state government.

Chuck Elderd is film commissioner for Palm Beach County. 

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