Nearly five years after the dramatic implosion of Hollywood animation company Digital Domain, the company’s hefty state subsidies again are a matter of debate in Tallahassee.
The script this time: Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are battling over Enterprise Florida. Scott campaigned as the jobs governor and wants more money for tax breaks for employers. Corcoran considers jobs incentives a form of corporate welfare.
As he rallies Republicans in the Legislature to pull the plug on Enterprise Florida, Corcoran points to the cautionary tale of Digital Domain, the biggest flop in the history of Florida’s economic development subsidies.
The night before Corcoran introduced a bill to kill funding for jobs incentives, he summoned top GOP lawmakers to a gathering in Tallahassee. The “meeting featured a three-minute video on failed Enterprise Florida projects,” the Fort Myers News-Press reports. “It includes John Textor, the former CEO of Digital Domain, explaining why $20 million in taxpayers’ money and $50 million in local incentives could not prevent his company’s bankruptcy and the evaporation of 300 Port St. Lucie jobs.”
Technically, Enterprise Florida didn’t issue incentives to Digital Domain. Its $20 million state subsidy came directly from state lawmakers and then-Gov. Charlie Crist.
After Digital Domain failed in 2012, Enterprise Florida’s scrutiny of Digital Domain became a point of contention. Enterprise Florida insisted that it never approved incentives and said Digital Domain “circumvented the due diligence process,” a position echoed by Scott.
But Textor insisted Enterprise Florida approved, and in an interview in 2012, Charlie Crist said he recalled that Enterprise Florida had signed off.
Enterprise Florida indeed negotiated incentives with Textor but ultimately declined to approve them. Either way, Textor didn’t receive incentives through Enterprise Florida.
Undeterred, Textor turned to Plan B — a direct appeal to state lawmakers and the governor.