Vacant Warehouses to Production Studios – In & Around Chicago

I know, I know, Ice Cube is catching much heat for “working” with Trump’s campaign. At this point, you may know, he took a call, had a conversation, met with Jared Kushner. They used his name to tout supporting the “Platinum Plan for Black America” to gain Black votes. This far in the game, we know how Trump’s team operate; their only goal is to win. So we can’t get ruffled in the feathers because change is an unemotional venture or journey. 

I took an interest in Ice Cube’s plan because I knew he would address film and Black America. The other issues, I did not think he would be informed enough to elaborate on those issues, even knowing that he pulled in experts to draft the contract. Many organizations are establishing and pushing legislature on most if not all of the topics brought up in his contract like Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), NAACP, and the Black Lives Matter movement’s originators, to name a few.

Also, many of the issues are state-level, making it difficult for the federal government to address. However, much of it was addressed in the Obama Administration like Black small business owner procurement of state-funded contracts that the Trump administration ended making so that only large corporations get those contracts, to name one thing. 

Anyway, film in Black, here’s exactly what Ice’s Cube’s Contract With Black America says, Entertainment Industry Reform and Reparations: 

  • Mandatory funding of “Black Studios” by the largest Hollywood studios, record companies, and Television studios and Networks to compensate for years of lack of support, stereotyping, and damage to black culture. Each will be required to fund an amount yearly. Black Studios will own and produce content by Black creators and will be run primarily by Black leadership. Content can be licensed to major studios. For a race to thrive, it must create art that reflects its views of the world. Racism still runs rampant through our society, and Hollywood is providing the instruction manual.
  • Licensing of public airwaves to broadcast networks such as NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC MUST require Black produced content equal to 20% of the total content on the network as measured by time. Time slots MUST be of similar quality to other content. The same applies to radio stations, and any other media were given access to publicly licensed airwaves by the FCC.
  • Minimum 13.4% Black cast and crew on all major Television and Film productions. The crew requirement cannot be waived, but casts that are overwhelmingly White, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, etc., can be waived as reasonable for TV shows and films to be more reflective of reality.

Okay, we have that out of the way. Now, let’s dig into what we can do for Chicago Studio space and build-outs. The possibility right here in Chicago to build wealth in entertainment and create jobs is without measure. Let’s look at the tax incentives and benefits:

Illinois’ 30% tax incentives, combined with an additional 15% for resident labor from underemployed areas, adds up to a pretty solid proposition in a state that has both rural and urban areas to boot.

  • Incentive: 30%, plus 15% for resident labor from underemployed areas
  • Minimum spend: $100,000

The State of Illinois offers a 30% transferable Tax Credit for qualified productions.

A tax credit is a tax incentive that allows certain taxpayers to subtract the amount of the credit they have accrued from the total they owe the State. It may also be a credit granted in recognition of taxes already paid or a form of state support.

Tax Credit Benefits

  • 30% of the qualified Illinois Production Spending.
  • 30% credit on Illinois salaries up to $100,000 per worker.
  • The tax credit can be carried forward five years from when originally issued by the Illinois Film Office/Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. 
  • The Illinois Film Tax Credit is currently scheduled for legislative renewal in 2026.
  • 15% additional credit- applicants will receive an additional 15% tax credit on salaries of individuals (making at least $1,000 in total wages) who live in economically disadvantaged areas whose unemployment rate is at least 150% of the State’s annual average.

So what am I seeking to accomplish? There are many unused or abandoned warehouse space on in Chicago, even extending out to Chicago’s suburbs zero filming or production studios currently. The city of Chicago should find a way to make these large spaces accessible for people seeking to create these types of studios. 

Also, support them in funding with equipment, employment opportunities, and marketing to avenues beyond Chicago. This is not an easy foot. There are studios that have successfully established this in the city, primarily West, so it’s doable, but this isn’t solely for the mainstream production companies who already have access to wealth and opportunity. 

This needs to be streamlined for small business owners to develop and grow in a market that has the potential of growth in this area. I am building the case and finding out what has worked, working, and who are currently investing in working in this area. 

So far, industry experts see the potential. However, in a 2019 article in Chicago Business magazine, it pointed out that warehouse space in Chicago seems to be sought out by large companies with online sales seeking space to store products. It might also be difficult to bring in investment revenue from lenders for this type of idea, but its definitely worth exploring.

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