The Somerset County Board of County Commissioners initiated the process for creating the Somerset County Film Commission at their May 25, 2021 meeting to assist in post-COVID economic recovery for the hard hit hospitality industry and create new employment and business opportunities for the future. The Film Commission will market the county’s robust natural landscapes and diverse communities to film, television, and digital productions while encouraging them to take advantage of New Jersey’s significant tax incentives for film.
Somerset County saw a 51 percent decline in tourism industry sales in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, making it one of the hardest hit counties in New Jersey. This year over year decline was seen in hospitality, restaurant, transportation, recreation, and other tourism spending which fell from $1,256,000 to $612,000, and visitation which dropped 27.8 percent from 3 million to 2.2 million individuals coming to Somerset County.
“Somerset County’s hospitality industry took a major hit during the pandemic, and now that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel we have to plan for a recovery of that vital sector,” said Commissioner Deputy Director Sara Sooy, liaison to the Somerset County Economic Recovery Task Force. “With the return of business travel in the coming months we may see a return to previous levels, but a successful Somerset County Film Commission will not only get us back to where we were but grow our hospitality and other local industries for the future.”
Somerset County has a plethora of skilled professionals and businesses ready to support anything from a quick one-day commercial shoot to a multi-year sit-com or reality show. Successful Somerset local businesses include caterers, marketing firms, security consultants, equipment rentals, virtual reality designers, audio and video production and postproduction, temporary employment, and some of the most comfortable and hospitable hotels in the area. It is also within an hour of both New York City and Philadelphia and the additional resources these two cities provide.
Additionally, Somerset County’s diverse communities are ideally suited to be the backdrop for almost any type of production, story, or idea. The county features quaint downtowns and urban centers, untouched forests and manicured parks, distinguished historic estates and apartment complexes, rolling farmland and winding rivers, professional baseball stadiums and high school football fields, scenic back roads and major interstate highways, and lots, lots more.
“The Somerset County Film Commission will highlight all our amenities to the industry, but more importantly bring opportunities to open and expand businesses that create jobs for our residents,” said Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson. “With everything Somerset County has to offer and the pandemic slowing down, now is the perfect time to create the Film Commission and ensure we bring in our fair share of New Jersey’s booming film production industry.”
In January of 2020, Governor Phil Murphy extended a tax incentive program to bring film, TV and digital productions to New Jersey that allows film productions to apply for savings of 30 percent on their expenses when filming in Somerset County and other portions of central and northern New Jersey until 2028. A recent study by Cornell University found for every single job hired to work in film and television production, there are another two jobs created in the economy: a 3:1 effect.
The Somerset County Film Commission will be made up of at least five and as many as seven members appointed by the Somerset County Board of County Commissioners. The Commission will be supported by the Somerset County Business Partnership, Somerset County Planning Division and Somerset County Cultural & Heritage Commission to become the single point of contact for TV, film and video productions in the County.