New state film czar to make her public debut

August 2, 2010
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The West Michigan Film Industry Task Force, a new ad hoc committee chartered by the Grand Valley State University Seidman College of Business and School of Communications to promote the development of the film industry in West Michigan, is gathering Aug. 10 to welcome the new director of Michigan’s official government Film Office to West Michigan.

Members of the news media have been invited to the University Club in downtown Grand Rapids that morning to meet Carrie Jones, who replaced Janet Lockwood in early July. After the press conference is completed and the media have been shooed away, they’ll have a continental breakfast reception for Jones.

Variety, the weekly entertainment industry magazine, reported in late June that Jones was taking over Lockwood’s job July 1. Jones had been appointed deputy director of the film office earlier in the year by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Variety reported that Jones is a former Granholm fundraiser and “has no film or TV experience.”

Lockwood, Michigan’s top film honcho for 19 years, told Variety she’d been in state government for 34 years before her retirement at the end of June.

An e-mail from the Press Club of Grand Rapids (housed within the University Club) to its members stated that the event is an “opportunity to share your focus and to promote our community as we work to draw films into the area and to grow the educational and business infrastructures that will support the industry long-term.”

The GVSU School of Communications distributed an announcement in late June about the West Michigan Film Industry Task Force. These are “top-level West Michigan stakeholders who are committed to maximizing the economic impact of the Michigan Film Incentive Program in West Michigan.”

The Task Force will host a series of events in which the stakeholders and film/television executives will “identify the status of assets and resources currently in place, and those the industry would like to see developed in order to make West Michigan a more film-friendly community.”

About those film incentives
So far, the one movie studio in West Michigan that tried to collect the state’s movie industry infrastructure tax credit has failed to get it. Hangar42 in Walker surfaced earlier this year like Moby Dick, with somewhat of an endorsement from Granholm, but then plunged out of sight when it was revealed that the sale price of the old factory may have been seriously over-inflated to snag a bigger tax credit.

Not all economic developers in West Michigan agree that the movie industry incentives are a good idea.

In a recent meeting with the news media, Birgit Klohs of The Right Place Inc. in Grand Rapids said she has never been in favor of the movie industry tax credits. Bringing movie productions to Michigan is “like the circus coming to town,” she said, perhaps implying that, like a circus, those jobs don’t stick around — unless, she added, the incentives result in a permanent, high-tech movie studio that keeps people working.

“We are not for film tax credits,” added Klohs, who was seated with Ron Kitchens of Southwest Michigan First, Greg Main of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Randy Thelen of the Lakeshore Advantage in Zeeland.

Kitchens said movie industry incentives are “interesting and sexy. … But our passion in southwest Michigan is the medical device industry.”

He added that Detroit area economic developers probably would “adamantly disagree” with opposition to the movie incentives. That’s where most feature films have been shot in Michigan in the last couple of years.

Thelen, however, suggested cautiously that “the jury is still out” on the movie incentives, and that more time may be needed to prove if they work or not.

Award nominations sought
The American Subcontractors Association of Michigan will name the Contractor of the Year at its new awards event Sept. 30.

According to LindaVos-Graham, president of Vos Glass Inc. and vice president of ASAM, the COTY Awards give the ASAM membership “an opportunity to nominate and recognize general contractors or construction managers who exhibit best practices, professionalism and collaboration with Michigan’s subcontracting community.”

ASAM members can nominate candidates through Aug. 13 at asamichigan.net. Online voting takes place Aug. 23 through Sept. 17. Candidates will be scored for performance in several criteria, including bid ethics and practice, safety, job-site supervision, communications, schedule coordination, project relations, lien processes, administrative procedures, payment terms and quality workmanship.

The names of the winners will be revealed at the Sept. 30 event that begins at 6 p.m. at the Goei Center, 818 Butterworth St. SW. Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell will be the guest speaker.

Event and award details — including sponsorship, nomination forms and ticket information — is available at asamichigan.net.

ASAM is dedicated to providing services and benefits to subcontractors, suppliers and service providers to help them become more successful. It is the local chapter of the American Subcontractors Association, an organization of 5,500 member companies. Through member meetings and networking, ASAM provides educational opportunities and valuable information for subcontractors throughout Michigan.

Cool comfort essential
Pamella DeVos, creative director of the Pamella Roland evening wear label, was featured in a Wall Street Journal story July 22 — not for her financial acumen this time around, but regarding her preference for stay-cool attire at summer functions, whether they’re held here or in New York.

According to WSJ writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, the designer with Grand Rapids roots, whose clothing is sold in Nordstrom and other high-end boutiques, “prefers dresses to pants and generally chooses shift styles and other less structured, constricting cuts.”

Ms. DeVos notes that “in Michigan, it doesn’t get dark until 10 sometimes during the summer. So if you’re going to be outside, the sun could be on you for hours.” We know that certainly has been the case here this summer.

On-the-job training
West Michigan teachers will have some “real world” experience this week when they join local businesses for a spin through the workplace. Educator in the Workplace is a partnership between the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Kent ISD. The five-day program is a concrete example of how educators and businesses can partner to develop relationships that will lead to a stronger work force.

“It is imperative for our businesses and educators to work together to develop a strong work force for the future,” said Jeanne Englehart, president and CEO of the chamber.

She noted the business immersion experience “will provide more than a dozen teachers with first-hand knowledge of how hard skills like math and science, as well as soft-skills such as group work, are used in the workplace. In turn, the teachers can relay what they’ve learned to their students to generate interest and an understanding of what skills are necessary for the work force. Teachers will work with company representatives to identify skill sets employers need and join project teams where they will witness those skills in action.”

Local companies Amway Corp., Cascade Engineering, Consumers Energy, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Granger Construction, GYMCO, Flexco, L-3 Avionics, Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, The Rapid, Van Andel Institute and Wolverine Coil & Spring are participating in the program. Company representatives will provide each teacher a behind-the-scenes experience in the private sector. 

Teachers will spend the last day developing a lesson plan and presentation based on their experience. They will give the presentation that afternoon to the entire group and their business hosts. Later this school year, these business hosts will join their educators in the classroom when they implement the lesson with students.

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