Michigan rallies to support tax incentives

Carrie Jones, MFO director

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE packed the Laurel Manor in Livonia Thursday to show their support for Michigan’s film industry and save it from the chopping block.

“This is not about saving Hollywood this is about saving Michigan,” said author and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom.  And with that, the standing room only crowd erupted into applause. 

 “This many people showed up with a three day notice. I think that sends a message to Gov. Snyder and the legislators that this is not just some little Hollywood fling. This is a veritable and defendable business and we need to keep it,” said Albom.

 “It’s a political nightmare. I hope Gov. Snyder hasn’t backed himself into a corner,” says Harvey Grace of Grace and Wild Studios, according to WXYZ/Ch. 7.

At the same time, more than 100 people attended Thursday’s rally in Grand Rapids. Organizers there said the next step is to present an alternative to the governor’s proposal.

THE MICHIGAN FILM OFFICE plans to follow Gov. Snyder’s plan to scale back the film incentives, although the state legislature has yet to weigh in on it.  

MFO director Carrie Jones sent Emails to a few industry insiders saying the state’s Film Office would adhere to his plan to scale back the incentives.  .

Jones’ action raised questions about whether the Film Office should already be scaling back the tax incentives, which received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Legislature in 2008. 

The MFO has approved only two of the 26 tax credit applications it received this year, the Detroit Free Press reported.  

A BIG LOSS TO MICHIGAN is the blockbuster “The Avengers,” which pulled out of shooting in Detroit over uncertainty about the incentives.

“They were all set to come here,” said Chris Baum of Film Detroit.  “When producers couldn’t get confirmation that they would still qualify for the incentives, they decided to pull out of the state.”

The Governor’s office said, however, the production wanted approval faster than the state could give it  

Marvel was “demanding an answer by 5 p.m.,” according to Geralyn Lasher, Gov. Snyder’s communications director. “When told by the Film Office that they couldn’t possibly review their application and give them an answer in such an extreme time frame, they chose to go elsewhere.”

Interesting, but doubtful, since “The Avengers” interest in Michigan goes back to December, when the producers set Detroit as a location, and was duly reported in ReelChicago.  

OPTIMISTIC RALEIGH MICHIGAN STUDIOS is moving forward with its plans to open its $80 million studio this spring in the former 425,000-sq. ft. GM plant in Pontiac, said Michael Newport, the studio’s marketing director.  

“The governor submitted a proposal that has yet to be debated or voted upon, so we are hoping that a reasonable solution will result once that happens.”

Financing for Raleigh Michigan involved a $27-million bond issue of which $18 million was backed by the state employees’ pension fund, said Maureen Donohue Krauss, Oakland County’s director of economic development. The remaining $9 million in bond debt is guaranteed by the studio’s owners and a bank.