Little support from MEDC

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Michigan Film Industry Gets MEDC Short End (source Film Freindly Michigan)

Despite the 2011-2012 state commitment of $58 million to build the Michigan motion media industry (film, high tech digital gaming, etc.) we are still waiting for the Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC)  to announce a  business-oriented strategy similar to other state industries:

One with the goal of growing and maintaining a separate and stable revenue stream expected to result from the millions of dollars of incentives /grants.

 Recent FFM inquiries about how the MEDC plans to assist the motion media industry to grow here have determined there is no plan beyond doing what we did before: i.e., spend money to bring new outside projects here with a few Michigan filmmakers benefitting along the way.

This sounds like the old plan with even less support for growing MI’s indigenous industry – the new incentives program does NOT include building or expanding infrastructure, and so far, there are no advanced skill training programs for MI workers. Many Michigan communities have no idea there is a new incentives program, or how to benefit from it. And the incentives decrease annually through 2015, ending entirely in 2017.

Didn’t we learn from the first iteration in 2008-2010? Without an aggressive economic development plan that engages local communities and guides local industry growth, there will be no different outcome than the last time.  The state agency responsible for building Michigan’s economy is the MEDC – which is, so far, MIA.

MEDC Top Ten Check List

Here are suggestions for MEDC actions in a very basic economic development plan:

1) First priority – PROMOTE  the motion media industry like any other: Get film and commercial production on the MEDC web-site and social media.  So far, the MEDC site doesn’t even include a picture of a camera.

2) Recruit from national companies to open offices here. We need agents, distributors, and managers as well as production and post-prod companies.  And by the way, on the next MEDC junket to Dubai, China, India, and S. Korea, please invite investment in studios here. Those countries have thriving film industries that could shoot here in our currently empty studios.

3) Provide the economic impact tracking systems applied to the Pure Michigan tourist program to the film industry. Stop guessing about the growth of local business as well as influx of new offices from outside the state that locate here thanks to the motion media industry and the incentives.

4) Direct all economic development offices, particularly regional offices such as the Right Place on the west side of the state and “Connection Point,” a partnership between Pure Michigan and the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, to include film and related tech companies into local econ development plans.  As long as the MEDC focus overlooks film and media, the other offices follow suit.

5) Provide training to communities to prepare to work effectively and smoothly with production crews and the Michigan Film Office (MFO):

                                     a) Distribute guidelines and benefits

                                     b) Help communities ID and promote unique locations

                                     c) Promote Film Friendly policies, marketing and tailored website pages

6) Establish High Tech islands, corridors, alleys or peninsulas  – whatever you want to call them – to help interested communities build economic drivers  within the motion media industries with as much foresight and recruitment as our current Medical Mile, Auto Alley, etc.

7) Encourage MI based clients and their ad agencies to employ local talent for commercial work.

8) Invite MI filmmakers to workshops on how to apply for incentives – what needs to be in a grant application.

 9) Help MI filmmakers prep for major film festivals – provide introductions to industry people who make decisions – showcase screenings and regional introductions to producers, agents, distributors, etc.

10) The MEDC already promotes a free technical education to high school grads under the Michigan Advanced Technician Training program ( ) aimed at helping students get trained in a “high tech in-demand field.” The program includes computer programming but none of the high-end skill training advocated for the film industry – core competencies for these skills are posted via a link on the MFO website under “Jobs and Training.”   

If just one college or university took on becoming a center for those highly skilled jobs, we would rapidly become known as an innovative center for this kind of training.

In short, the lack of MEDC involvement in the film and production incentives program seems a huge slap in the face of every legislator who voted to approve the program — and every Michigan citizen who wants to work in this industry. Where is the plan that will make the best use of a $58 million investment to generate a 21st century industry in Michigan that lasts?

Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Only we know the legislature will not renew the incentives again without significant results – meaning measurable increases in Michigan jobs and local business for Michigan workers – and who can blame them?

Right now the MEDC appears to be playing a waiting game – ignore the program and yes, it will go away. We would love to hear your thoughts on the situation! If you are not part of an upcoming SWOT session, add your comments here or on our Face Book page 

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