On February 17th of this year, newly elected Governor Rick Snyder released his new budget recommendations, and like most I heard some things I agreed with and some I did not. I usually avoid public statements about politics at all costs; however, having taken some time to digest the proposed changes, I've decided to weigh in on one issue that I believe could cause irreparable damage to our economic revitalization progress.
Michigan, like many states around this great land of ours, has significant budgetary woes. There is no question that changes are necessary, especially changes that ignite job creation.
That is one reason why I, like many of you, was stunned to hear that the governor intended to eliminate the Michigan Film Credit and replace it with a meager $25 million grant program. That may not sound like a small amount of money on the surface, but it isn't even enough to lure one major motion picture.
Currently, the incentives rebate up to 42 percent of an approved production's qualified in-state expenses for a movie, TV show or other project permitted under the law. They're considered the most generous film incentives in the nation but have been criticized by some for not bringing enough money into the state. To me, the bigger question is, how little revenue would have come into the state through this blossoming industry without incentives?
A study released last month by Ernst & Young said the incentives created the equivalent of 3,860 full-time jobs for Michigan residents in 2010, and productions spent $531 million in the state over the past two years. During that same period of time I have talked to equipment rental companies, retailers, hotels, caterers, event planners, etc who have all described how their businesses were SAVED by the increased amount of productions filming in Michigan.
Additionally, there is the growth of the local talent base. When productions shoot on location, they often have to bring their own crews. This is becoming less and less true in Michigan with the amount of work experience that locals are getting in a variety of capacities. Many of the jobs are coveted by young people, whom we are working hard to retain throughout the state.
Before we make a move that kills a growing industry in a state that has precious few of those, let us carefully consider the consequences. Critics are concerned about how many dollars they believe have been spent to lure this industry. What is the value of those dollars if we abolish the industry before it has a chance to fully take root? Capital investment in studios, trained workers, and equipment will help make the industry thrive, even if incentives are gradually reduced. There is nothing gradual about the governor's proposal. Money already invested, will have been wasted.
Moving beyond the obvious dollars and cents, let us also consider the economic impact of that which is much more difficult to quantify...the image of our state. Like it or not, we live in an age of pop culture and celebrity. When famous people talk, thousands and sometimes even millions of people listen. The Clint Eastwoods, Drew Barrymores, and George Clooneys of the world can do more for transforming the image of our state on a national and international level than any traditional marketing campaign that we can create. The dawning of our golden era of film coincided with the giant boom that is social media, creating a perfect storm of groundswell marketing.
When David Arquette brags about his favorite coney dog, and Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore tweet a picture of themselves rooting for the Tigers at Comerica Park, millions of people have the opportunity to adjust their eyes and their image of who we are and what we have to offer. You don't have to like or admire the famous faces walking our streets more readily these days, but the attention they can claim for our state is truly worthy of our attention. Especially as we, the only state in the union with a lower population in the last census, seek to attract and retain our youth.
Whether you agree or disagree with my take on this important subject, and the budget as a whole, please take the time to share your thoughts with the elected officials who represent you. Elections may not come around that often, but your voice can always be heard beyond the ballot box if you take the time to take a stand.
Click HERE to learn who your current State Representative is and to make contact. Click HERE to learn who your current State Senator is and to make contact. Click HERE to get contact information for Governor Rick Snyder.
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