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Onondaga County uses $5M incentive fund to attract more productions

By Eric Reinhardt


SYRACUSE — Onondaga County is hoping a $5 million initiative called PRIMED will help attract additional film, television, and commercial productions to the area.

PRIMED is short for production incentives for movies and entertainment development.

“Why are we doing it? We’re doing it because we have an emerging industry … we are past proof of concept for film in Onondaga County. We now know we can do it and we can do it well,” Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon said.

McMahon on July 14 announced the incentive program during a press event at the Redhouse Arts Center at 400 S. Salina St. in downtown Syracuse.

The initiative is part of the stimulus package announced during McMahon’s State of the County address.

The program will offer rebates on local spending related to pre-, principal, or post-production process for film, television, and large commercial-advertising campaigns. It includes an additional bonus incentive for those that hire from underrepresented communities including veterans, members of the disability community, minority populations, and for those that hire students enrolled in local colleges and universities so they can “gain valuable experience and learn trade,” McMahon said. 

“This PRIMED initiative is going to help give us a little bit of an advantage … create a little bit of buzz, but at the same time, incentivize production here in our community based off local spend,” he said. 

Who qualifies

To qualify, an applicant must have 70 percent of its production within Onondaga County. Films are required to have a minimum budget of $1.5 million. TV productions must have a minimum budget of $1 million. And commercial productions need to spend a minimum of $400,000. The rebates are based on the amount of money spent in Onondaga County, McMahon noted. 

Eligible expenses in the program include lodging, hotels, rooms, meals, restaurants, transportation costs, construction sets, supplies, and retail. “These are all qualifying expenses,” he said. 

A production can receive up to 25 percent of qualifying expenses, plus an additional incentive bonus of up to 5 percent for the hiring it does. The cap per year is $300,000, or two projects, according to McMahon.

McMahon went on to say that Onondaga County is offering the incentive because film production locally is seen as an “emerging industry” which is “past proof of concept” in the county. 

The county is also offering the incentive to help a sector that was hurt during the pandemic. 

“We’re doing it because our hospitality and arts community and our restaurant community have been hurt drastically through the pandemic. And film drives room nights. It drives spend in these exact areas … We believe this will give us a competitive advantage and will give us a sales tool to continue to go talk to more production houses and get more economic activity in our community,” he said.         

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