Should The State Continue To Invest In The Film Industry?

Industry experts discuss the economic impact of Michigan’s film incentive program, and whether it should end.

Michigan’s film-incentive program would be eliminated if some lawmakers at the state Capitol have their way. The state House recently approved a proposal to get rid of the movie-industry program. The state Senate has not yet taken up the issue.

Critics of the film-incentive program say it’s a failed attempt to attract the industry and revenue to the state. Supporters of the program say the movie industry has generated excitment and work in Michigan, and the state hasn’t given the program enough time or strength.

“It’s not uncommon in business to introduce a product that you lose money at first and then you make it up later once it becomes more popular,” says Randy Richardville, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader, and a proponent of the film-incentive program. Richardville says the program has worked by many measures. “We attracted Hollywood into Michigan… better than any other state in the union.”

Governor Rick Snyder also supports the film-incentive program. He says the state needs to work to diversify its economy and attract all kinds of new businesses and industries. 

Richardville agrees. He says the instability of the program at the state Capitol hurts the overall strength of the movie business in Michigan.

“Every time a government program goes out… it’s going to be very difficult for the MEDC or any of our other economic development engines to attract people to Michigan. Not only will it not be that exciting of a place to come, but at the same time we don’t keep our word either.”  

“This was a nice experiment, but it’s failed and it hasn’t shown the real payoff in terms of full-time permanent jobs,” says Tricia Kinley, senior director with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “It’s time to end this program,”

Republican state Representative Dan Lauwers sponsored the measure. He says the state’s financial woes make the film-incentive program untenable.

“There’s not necessarily any tax being paid, it’s not a tax rebate system, it’s an actual cash reimbursement program for having spent money in Michigan,” says Lauwers. He says the state’s current deficit due to business tax credits cashed in with the state means some unnecessary programs have to be cut. “I think necessity will prevail, and these are funds that will have to be cut just to balance our budget.”

Lauwers says he does support traditional business tax credits, and he would be open to film companies receiving tax credits through that system.