LANSING– Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced Michigan’s aggressive film production attraction efforts have helped land Burbank, California-based Unity Studios to launch a $146-million state-of-the-art production studio in Allen Park. The project is expected to initially create up to 121 new jobs, including 83 directly by the company. At full operation, Unity Studios, factoring in related business and film and television productions, expects to employ up to 3,000.
“We are working hard to build a diversified economy and create good-paying jobs for our talented workforce,” Granholm said. “As a result of our aggressive film incentives enacted just a year ago, we are not only bringing new investment to the burgeoning film production community in Michigan, we are putting in place the infrastructure for an industry that will support long-term job growth and opportunity in new, creative sectors.”
Unity Studios will be majority owned and operated by a group of investors from Los Angeles and Michigan, with Jimmy Lifton of California as the president. Lifton, originally from Southfield, Michigan, has been in the business of entertainment for 30 years. He has owned an internationally distributed record label, produced 13 feature films, and is principal of one of the largest independent post-production audio studios in Los Angeles, Oracle Post. Some of the most famous and familiar TV and film industry giants use Oracle Post, including Fox, HBO, NBC, ABC, Disney, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Lionsgate, Universal, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, VH1 and MTV.
Also unique about the project: The Lifton Institute for Media Skills will implement one of the largest retraining programs ever enacted in Michigan. Out-of-work skilled and unskilled labor will receive on-the-set training and production experience, giving students production credits. In addition, the project will include a village where people can live, shop and find entertainment options.
“My goal was to help bring a new industry to my home state.” said Lifton. “I like to think of Unity Studios as a factory in the tradition of Henry Ford’s Rouge factory model – all aspects of production occurring in one location – workforce training, production, post-production, distribution and marketing. We will constantly be creating product on the lot, utilizing the Detroit area’s best asset – the creativity of its people.”
Michigan’s film infrastructure is growing swiftly with new production facilities and a growing base of education and training programs across the state. In February, three companies – Wonderstruck Studios, Motown Motion Pictures and Stardock Systems – committed to locate or expand film and entertainment media production facilities in Michigan, investing more than $156 million combined and creating nearly 6,000 new jobs. State agencies, universities, community colleges, and private institutions are rapidly creating programs to train the next generation of filmmakers.
“Our film program is just one component of our multi-faceted economic diversification strategy that includes growing new businesses from the rich talent and technology assets found in Michigan,” MEDC President and CEO Greg Main said. “Today’s announcement adds to the base of a permanent industry presence supporting Michigan’s newest growth sector.”
Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board today approved a state tax credit valued at $2.8 million over 12 years to help win the studios’ investment. To support the project, the city of Allen Park and Wayne County are working with the MEDC on a potential Renaissance Zone designation. In addition, Infrastructure Development Film and Digital Media incentives are being considered by the Michigan Film Office, and the MEDC has approved up to $83,000 in economic development job training funding.
“Our economic development team has been working diligently with Allen Park on this project,” Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said. “We are now attempting to put together an incentive package that will create jobs in a new industry for the region.”
The county is considering making a Renaissance Zone designation available for the project when all benchmarks are met by investors, Ficano added.
Governor Granholm proposed the film incentive program in her 2008 State of the State address, and after winning bipartisan support for the legislative package, signed the bills into law last April. Since that time, the Michigan Film Office has generated 283 script proposals and 162 applications, of which 80 have been approved for film production incentive agreements. Credit certificates in calendar year 2008 have been issued for 35 productions for their expenditures of $125 million in Michigan with a related incentive value of $48.0 million. Film production expenditures in Michigan have increased from less than $2 million in 2007 to $125 million in 2008 (for the nine months in that year after the legislation was signed into law.)
“Unity Studios amounts to an economic development blockbuster and the best economic news announced in Downriver and southeast Michigan in years,” said Gary Burtka, mayor of Allen Park. “This project represents new hope and, more importantly, job opportunities for thousands of Allen Park residents and auto workers who have lost their jobs. We have found an economic boost in the lights, cameras and action of Michigan’s newest high-tech industry.”
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a partnership between the state and local communities, promotes smart economic growth by developing strategies and providing services to create and retain good jobs and a high quality of life. For more information on the MEDC’s initiatives and programs, visit the Web site at www.MichiganBusiness.org..
# # #