Sometimes you need to spend money to make money.  That's the thought process behind a recent move by the City of Superior in regards to the film industry.

The Tourism Development Commission moved to approve a $20,000 fund that would be provided back to qualifying filmmakers who use Superior for location work.  The dollars would be made available to the film companies by way of a 25-percent rebate to those companies "that sleep or seek catering in Superior".

The move is seen by city leaders as a way of "investing" in these film companies with "guarantee[d]" result. An article in the Superior Telegram [paywall] explains the logic behind the funding allocation. Superior Tourism Commissioner JoAnn Jardine advanced the proposed incentive - suggesting that "a $20,000 fund would guarantee $80,000 spent in Superior for food and lodging".

Barker's Island Marina in Superior, WI
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

The rebate incentive would be calculated after a film company had completed their work in the city:

"Once filming has wrapped up, Jardine said the filmmaker would put together their receipts and the commission would reimburse up to 25% of catering and lodging costs."

Jardine offered:  "There's no risk to us [the city] because it doesn't get spent if they don't spend any money".

Funding would come directly from Superior's room tax dollars, which are overseen by the Tourism Development Commission.

Ahead of the allocation, there was discussion amongst city leaders as to whether or not to proceed.  One of the points of contention was the way that the room tax is calculated.  Because hotel bookings in Superior that are over 30 days in length "generate no room tax", some questioned the potential for the city to be "subsidizing long-term stays" with the rebate incentive.

City of Superior, WI sign
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

Superior Mayor Jim Paine offered that he sees the incentive in a positive light.  "While there is work to be done in developing the policy to expand the money, Paine said it would be a legitimate use of the room tax the commission oversees". He also shared that his research into film incentives showed that they're "almost always funded using tourism dollars".

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