28 February 2011

A proposed cut on Michigan's film tax credit may hinder production incentives

Movie makers in the Michigan film industry are questioning the cap Governor Rick Snyder proposed for the state's incentive-based film tax credit.

As part of Synder's first budget proposal, the Michigan Governor added a limitation on the amount of funds allocated for the film tax credit to $25 million. That's less than 20% the amount the state paid out to the industry in 2009.

The drastic reduction in tax funds is raising the eyebrows of many Michigan filmmakers and activists.

"Putting a $25 million cap would severely curtail Michigan's attractiveness to the film and television industry and create a severe limitation," said the senior vice president for state government affairs.

Producers who choose Michigan to shoot their big screen masterpieces are eligible to recoup up to 42 percent of production expenses totaling over $50,000 through the program.

The film tax credit was first introduced in 2008 by the former Governor Jennifer Granholm as an effort to increase major film production in Michigan - a plan that potentially offers many indirect benefits to the state's commercial interests.

The motives behind the program include attracting more jobs, in addition to enhancing state's image as it has become synonymous with the decline of the manufacturing sector in American. Such tax credits have attracted the creation of movies like "Detroit 187" and "Gran Torino."

Since the program's launch in 2008, 133 projects have wrapped in Michigan with $365 million in incentives approved and $95.6 million already paid to production companies, according to data from the Michigan Film Office, which disburses the tax credits. The production of those films resulted in over $648 million spent in the state since the program took full effect.

In addition to the direct affect the tax incentive has had on Michigan movie production, the film credit has improved business in various other industries - indirectly. For instance, Michigan furniture manufacturer Case Systems was able to capitalize on few high volume purchases in accordance with the tax credit.

Currently, there are applications for over $93 million in tax credits pending at the Michigan Film Office for 2011. However, warnings are being announced that if the tax breaks are cut, Michigan's talent base for movie making may soon be headed to other areas like Hollywood. One production in particular has been already pulled out of the state.

"It's safe to say that a number of our companies may not consider Michigan in the mix anymore because of the uncertainty as to whether they would be able to obtain a portion of the credit," said Michigan's senior vice president of government affairs. "The potential for a mass exodus is real given those parameters," Stevenson said.

He acknowledged that most film producers were lured by the size of state's tax credit since 40 states have film industry incentives in place and most are competitive, if not quite as generous as the credit in Michigan.

The governor's proposal would limit tax incentives to $25 million for fiscal 2012 and 2013. The budget is still pending approval by the state legislature, but many officials on the conservative side have argued that Michigan cannot afford the tax credit in the face of a $1.8 billion budget deficit.

On the liberal end of the fight, proponents are arguing that the tax credit has a positive impact in many sectors beyond the arts, ranging from auto transport companies to unique Michigan-based boutiques.

The move has displeased over 5,000 state residents who were employed by the film industry in 2010. Plans for a new film studios near Detroit could be jeopardized, prompting over 1,000 Michigan residents to meet on the issue. Mitch Albom and actor Jeff Daniels were among the powerful voices behind the assembly.

08 February 2011

Accelerate your career search by earning one of these promising degrees

Wouldn't it be wonderful to hear the words: "So can you take the job?" shortly after you earn your degree? By choosing the right degree, you just might be able to select your ideal job of choice.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), your major is the most significant factor in determining your employment status come graduation. Review, highlight, and study these five degrees that offer grads great odds for getting hired - almost immediately.

#1 - Accounting Degree
New regulations in accounting practices, which were recently passed by Congress, have made this credential even more valuable. According to a 2010 survey by NACE, 47 percent of accounting majors earn a job prior to graduation.
Related Careers and Salaries:
Accountants: $59,430
Personal Financial Advisors: $69,050
Financial Analysts: $73,150
Did You Know? According to a 2010 survey by Universum Group, the Big Four accounting firms (KPMG, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloitte) finished just short of Google and on top of companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs on a list of "dream employers" for students going for a bachelor degree in accounting.

#2 - Business Degree
Businesses will pave the road out of an economic slump, and they will need new workers to help make it happen. Over 45 percent of students pursuing a bachelors degree in business administration discovered a job prior to graduation, according to NACE.
Related Careers and Salaries:
Insurance Underwriters: $56,790
Administrative Services Managers: $73,520
Financial Managers: $99,330
Did You Know? According to the U.S. Department of Education, degrees related to business made up 21 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded in 2008.

#3 - Computer/Information Systems Degree
Over 44 percent of bachelor degree CIS students were given at least one job offer prior to graduating in 2010, according to NACE.
Related Careers and Salaries:
Computer Support Specialists: $43,450
Network Systems Analysts: $71,100
Computer Scientists: $97,970
Did You Know? Large tech companies like Facebook and Apple have ramped up their hiring in Silicon Valley. For the IT industry, this was an increase in jobs for the first time in nearly two years in September 2010.

#4 - Engineering Degree
Engineering students find jobs quick - often times prior to graduation. In addition, engineering graduates, even entry-level, earn handsome salaries that exceed many MBA degrees. According to a separate NACE survey, eight of the top 10 highest-paid majors are related to engineering.
Related Careers and Salaries:
Civil Engineers: $74,600
Chemical Engineers: $ 84,680
Petroleum Engineers: $108,020
Did You Know? The first wireless telephone patent was issued in 1908 to an engineer named Nathan B. Stubblefield. He also ran a school founded on a farm that is now coined Murray State University.

#5 - Health Sciences Degree
According to NACE, nearly 39 percent of health sciences majors have earned a job offer before graduating in 2010. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that health care will provide over 3 million new jobs through 2018.
Related Careers and Salaries:
Medical Assistants: $28,300
Health Information Technicians: $30,610
Registered Nurses: $62,450
Did You Know? Many careers in the health care sector are available to those with just an associate's degree. But for students, like those seeking a bachelor degree in nursing, will need a full four years under their belt.

(*All salary data comes from the U.S. Department of Labor and is based upon median salaries for 2008.)

01 February 2011

Chrysler plans to pay UAW workers a $750 "performance award"

Next week Chrysler plans to pay its UAW and CAW employees an average "performance award" of $750, based on the automaker's 2010 operating profit of $763 million. This all comes at a surprise to investors given the fact Chrysler lost $652 million after interest expenses and other restructuring obligations.

Workers who get paid by salary, except for the top 50 executives of the company, also will receive the award, a Chrysler spokeswoman said early in the week. Because the company still has debt of $5.8 billion to the feds, the U.S. Treasury can restrict senior management's compensation.

"The obligation to our people was much greater than the need to improve our bottom line profitability." said the company's CEO Sergio Marchionne."It was absolutely owed that we treat our people properly,"

Praising the idea of the performance award is Chrysler's VP of the UAW department, General Holiefield.

"This certainly shows the character of the new Chrysler to give recognition to the UAW Chrysler workforce," said Holiefield. He also mentioned that some employees would receive a payment in excess of the $750 average, while other workers would receive less, depending on their eligibility.

The Michigan automaker reported a $199 million net loss for the last quarter, but a $198 operating profit when interest expenses and taxes are excluded.

For the entire year of 2010 Chrysler reported a net loss of $652 million, but a better than projected operating profit reaching $763 million.

The core reason for the company's large difference in net loss and operating profit is the interest expense due to government loans. That interest accumulated to $329 million in the fourth quarter and $1.23 billion for all of 2010. CEO Sergio Marchionne has spoken with investment bank Goldman Sachs about ways to refinance some of those loans at a lower interest rate.

Such financial adjustments likely occur before Chrysler can follow through with an IPO that would allow the U.S and Canadian governments to sell shares in Chrysler. The U.S. owns 9.2% and Canada owns 2.3%.

Marchionne and CFO of the company Richard Palmer said Chrysler projects to earn a net profit of between $200 million and $500 million for 2011, without having to refinancing the federal loans. Excluding interest expense, management expects its operating profit to more than double from $763 million last year to $2 billion in 2011.

But the burden of Chrysler's financial aid from the government remains heavy. Palmer added that those loans carry an average interest rate of 11%.

Chrysler's loan interest could see an increase this year. The automaker is waiting for word from the U.S. Department of Energy on an application for a $3.5 billion loan, which would fund new projects to improve the fuel economy of future vehicles.

Last week, neighboring automaker Ford said it would award its 40,600 UAW workers an average of $5,000 in profit-sharing. Chrysler has not paid profit-sharing since 2005, when its UAW workers received an average of $650.

Marchionne elected to the call the payment "performance award" rather than "profit-sharing", because it is difficult to mention profit sharing when you have a negative figure at the bottom line, he added.

Chrysler reported a net loss of $199-million for the fourth quarter, but an operating profit of $198-million when interest expenses and taxes are excluded.

“I want to express my gratitude to everyone for their hard work as we move forward towards the achievement of our goals,” Marchionne said in his e-mail. “You are the authors of this success. I want to thank you for your dedication, your creativity and your willingness to embrace change without which these results would not have been achieved. "

For the full year, Chrysler reported a net loss of $652 million, but a better-than-expected operating profit of $763 million. Additionally, the company still maintains key relationships with large clients, in sectors like transportation services and auto transport.