News Story

Gov. Granholm in 2009: 'Movie Studio to Create 700 Jobs;' Six Years Later - Nada

Wonderstruck Studios never materialized

In a 2009 news release, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm highlighted Wonderstruck Studios as an example of why the state’s film subsidy program was vital for bringing jobs to Michigan. The state claimed that the company would create 700 jobs and draw new economic activity to downtown Detroit by producing computer-generated visual effects and animation.

"We are working hard to build a diversified economy and create good-paying jobs in Michigan," Granholm said in February of 2009. "As a result of our aggressive film incentives we are not only bringing new investment to Michigan, we are laying the foundation for an industry that will support long-term job growth for our citizens."

In statewide stories, the Detroit Free Press, MLive and The Detroit News reported the job promises and the purported boost to the state economy as if they were all but delivered. The Detroit News went so far as to report the day after Granholm’s announcement that Wonderstruck Studios was “boosting one of the state’s few fast growing industries.”

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation granted a $16.9 million state tax credit to the project's promoters, and another $11.7 million worth of direct and indirect subsidies were approved to support it.

Six years later, however, the project never came about and none of those projections ever came true. Wonderstruck Studios' status received little or no news coverage though, because the project fell off the media radar soon after Granholm’s news release. Crain’s Detroit Business reported that Wonderstruck Studios was leasing space at Ford Field in Detroit in September of 2010.

Frank Provenzano, spokesman for the MEDC, said July 9 the deal with Ford Field fell through “a while ago" — an event for which no news release was issued.

Michele Richards, the CEO of Wonderstruck Studios, responded to an email last week seeking comment on what happened to the plans in Michigan but didn’t answer any questions.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has been an opponent of the state's subsidizing Hollywood movie makers.

“It is just one more piece of evidence that the Michigan Legislature and Gov. Snyder are making the right decision to end film subsidies and use Michigan’s precious tax resources toward priorities that have better outcomes for Michigan residents,” said Tricia Kinley, spokeswoman for the chamber.

Earlier this month, Snyder signed a bill into law that effectively ends the state’s film subsidy program.

Despite being a media darling, the state’s film incentives never generated the jobs numbers trumpeted in media reports, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state appropriated to movie producers about $475 million from 2008 to 2014. Michigan had 1,663 full-time “motion picture and video production” jobs in 2008. By 2013, there were 1,561 of those jobs in the state — a net loss of 102 jobs.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.