State film incentives must be maintained

March 13, 2015
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ArtPrize leaders last week announced the inclusion this year of what has been named the third best film festival in the country as part of the 10-day, wildly successful art extravaganza. ArtPrize On Screen will present films, videos and interactive works through screenings at various venues, curated by Waterfront Film Festival. The alarming contrast by week’s end was a narrowly approved Michigan House bill to eliminate all film incentives by the time ArtPrize plays to the throngs, bringing $4 million in revenue to the Grand Rapids region. The correlation is most obvious to the creative class Michigan presumes to court for New Millennium jobs.

Little more than two months ago Gov. Rick Snyder extended the film credit incentive program for seven years. The law now requires one Michigan resident to be hired for every non-resident through Sept. 30, 2017, and 1.5 Michigan residents for every non-resident hired from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2020. Members of the House last week irrationally looked at film credits as a patch for a budget shortfall, “unexpectedly” created by tax credits quickly redeemed largely by industrial age manufacturers.

Perhaps House members in this time of budget hacking should put eyeballs on the Michigan Economic Development Corp., now in the business of giving grants for special projects in varied locales. Recent examples include:

  • MEDC announced Michigan Strategic Fund approval of $50 million in Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program funds to 18 Michigan community colleges, incentives for three community revitalization projects and a Request for Proposals for the official Pure Michigan travel guides.
  • As reported in the Business Journal today, the Ottawa County Planning Commission is considering leveraging a crowdfunding platform launched by the MEDC as an additional fundraising tool to engage community members in supporting public improvement projects and to earn matching funds from the state. Projects reaching their fundraising goals through pledge support have the opportunity to receive a matching grant from MEDC of up to $100,000.
  • The MEDC and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. announced a new crowdfunding campaign through Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. The campaign will support a series of two to three public murals in downtown Grand Rapids.

The Business Journal does not infer these are unimportant projects to specific communities or agencies, but community-based projects generally earn their funding from local taxpayers, foundations and nonprofits, not every taxpayer in Michigan’s two peninsulas.

Gov. Snyder is absolutely right in telling House members, “People have been relying on (the film incentives)” and making decisions based on it. Associated Press reported Snyder also compromised to cut incentives in gradual fashion, adding, “…because the industry should be self-sufficient at some point in the future.”

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, is encouraged to continue defense of a state program that advances opportunities for the creative class.

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