Commissioner ‘startled’ by Sanborn’s $500K grant request

wtatangelo@bradenton.comFebruary 23, 2011 

SARASOTA -- “Startled.”

That was Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson’s reaction to Sanborn Studios’ request for an additional $500,000.

In September 2010, the private business with a Lakewood Ranch facility received a $650,000 grant from the county.

“I’m startled that before job production took place they came back for more dollars,” Patterson said. “We’ll see if they have sufficient justification for that request.”

The item had been scheduled for discussion at the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday. Founder/chief executive officer Ken Sanborn called the night before and said he couldn’t make it, and county officials agreed to push the meeting back until Sanborn could be in attendance. No date has been set.

The half-million dollar request is for “an economic development incentive grant to purchase additional post-production equipment,” reads the commission report.

Sanborn Studios has submitted no updates on its progress -- namely, number of jobs created -- since receiving the $650,000 or in light of its recent $500,000 request, confirmed Jeff Maultsby, county manager of business and economic development.

“All companies that have received incentives from the county will be asked on, or around, their one-year anniversary to make a progress report,” Maultsby added.

Sanborn’s primary project, the television show “Miami 24/7,” remains in “pre-production,” according to its website.

“They don’t have to provide us with information, but it would be helpful for me to gauge what kind of decision I need to make in regard to the additional $500,000,” said commissioner Christine Robinson, who had not been sworn in yet when the county approved the $650,000.

Sanborn did not return phone calls.

“The history of government subsidies to filmmakers is checkered,” said Randy Finch, an associate professor in the film division at the University of Central Florida. “And the particular business that Sanborn has been talking about requires huge capitalization.”

In addition to producing award-winning plays in New York, Los Angeles and at the Kennedy Center, Finch’s film credits include producing, with the Farrelly brothers (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “Kingpin”), the 1999 comedy “Outside Providence” featuring Alec Baldwin.

“Based on everything I know, there are probably less risky ways for the county to encourage economic activity and create jobs,” said Finch, who lives in Sarasota.

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at (941) 745-7057. Visit his blog at bradenton.com/blogs.

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