Hollywood on the Mohawk? A major California entertainment company creating a $69 million television and film studio in Schenectady? Sounds like former Mayor Frank Duci’s fanciful idea of many years ago to bring the Emmy Awards Show to Schenectady. But this actually seems possible. The stars, Hollywood and otherwise, may now be aligned for Schenectady.
The company is Pacifica Ventures. Besides owning studios in California, it has recently built them in Albuquerque, N.M. (where it produces this year’s Emmy Award-winner “Breaking Bad”), Philadelphia and South Windsor, Ct.
What do these places have in common? They’re located in states that provide healthy tax credits for production and post-production, as New York state now does, thanks to legislation championed by Gov. Cuomo and passed by lawmakers last year. The new law increased the maximum post-production tax credit to 30 percent from 10 percent in the New York City region, and to 35 percent upstate in an attempt to spur more development in economically struggling areas. Schenectady surely qualifies as one of those.
And facilities like these surely are a boon to the local economy, not only bringing plenty of good-paying jobs (an estimated 1,000 in this case) but spending freely on food and housing for crews, construction materials for sets, etc. And attracting tourists. Schenectady has already seen some of this with last year’s filming of “The Place Beyond the Pines,” and liked what it saw. And the people from Pacifica Ventures, who were here at the time, liked what they saw of Schenectady and its welcoming attitude toward that entertainment project.
They also liked the site they were shown, 60 acres of former industrial space (the old Alco plant) overlooking the river. Pacifica would use 10 of those acres; the rest would go for an already-planned mixed-use development, including a hotel, apartments, offices, commercial space, bike path and marina, that Schenectady has been anxiously awaiting.
Pacifica is looking for a $15 million grant from the state. There was a time not long ago when there wouldn’t have been much question about it getting it. The governor or some powerful politician like Joe Bruno would simply bless the project and the money would be awarded. But now there is a process, started by Cuomo, where regional economic development councils prioritize their proposed projects and then those projects compete with those of other councils for state money.
The Capital Region Economic Development Council last week made Pacifica’s one of its top priority projects, and redeveloping the Alco site has been a priority for it all along. The Pacifica plan deserves state funding, not as part of a political deal but on the merits.