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Empire State Development Awards WCNY with Funding to Support Workforce Development Efforts in the Film Industry

Entertainment Workforce Diversity Grant Program Supports Efforts to Train a Diverse and Inclusive Workforce for the Motion Picture and Television Industry in New York State

Empire State Development (ESD) today announced that WCNY, located in Syracuse, Onondaga County, has been awarded $499,766 from the State’s Entertainment Workforce Diversity Grant Program for its new WCNY Entertainment Academy. The Academy will train the next generation of television and film production engineers, electricians, set designers, sound mixers, and camera operators to help support the growing entertainment industry in Central New York.

The award comes from the first-in-the-nation New York Entertainment Workforce Diversity Grant Program, which funds job training and workforce development across New York State’s entertainment industry and is financed by a percentage from New York State’s Film Tax Credit program. The program is designed to further diversify the industry by targeting residents in economically distressed areas of the state and creating a pathway to permanent jobs in film and television production. The grant will complement more than $300,000 that WCNY, the region’s leading public communications organization, will contribute to launching the Entertainment Academy.

ESD President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said, “WCNY has been educating Central New York communities for decades and we are pleased to support the new WCNY Entertainment Academy that will create a pipeline for well-trained workers in the entertainment industry. The individuals who graduate from this program will have vital skills and connections needed for new careers and brighter futures.”

WCNY President and CEO Mitch Gelman said, “This initiative fits the goals we have for WCNY to provide education, create economic opportunity, and enhance quality of life. The Academy builds on the education services WCNY offers and will give us the opportunity to expand our commitment to help further workforce development.”

The WCNY Entertainment Academy, which will open this Fall, will train a diverse group of people ages 25- to 39-years-old in one of three annual 14-week training sessions with approximately 16 trainees per session. The curriculum will be taught by local union representatives, experienced staff at WCNY, and adjunct faculty members and guest lectures from across the entertainment industry. I.A.T.S.E. Local 52 will collaborate with WCNY to provide instructors for the program and offer a real-world baseline of knowledge and specific skills in grip, electric, video, sound, and shopcraft, which are necessary for graduates to be job-ready upon completion.

Graduates will earn certifications, including OSHA and Aerial Lift certifications, and will develop relationships that may lead to union membership and job placements. They will also have an opportunity to gain professional and life skills in multiple areas centered around comprehensive television and film production roles, and, in the process, to earn an enduring path to self-sufficiency.

Senator Rachel May said, “Seeing a half-a-million-dollar investment in Central New York’s flourishing film industry is exciting. New York’s Entertainment Workforce Diversity Grant Program will help fund the WCNY Entertainment Academy, which will train future filmmakers in the community. Supporting our film industry in this way will attract more productions to the area, create jobs and boost the local economy. I look forward to the continued success of our film industry and watching more movies filmed here in CNY.”

Assemblyman William Magnarelli said, “The new WCNY Entertainment Academy and the State’s Entertainment Workforce Diversity Grant are wonderful opportunities that will allow WCNY to become a leader in recruiting, teaching and employing community members in film and television production. This program will create well-paying opportunities for local residents to gain professional experience and be considered for local job placements.”

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh said, “The WCNY Entertainment Academy will prepare local people for careers in expanding entertainment fields. Syracuse is grateful for the support of Empire State Development and Governor Hochul for workforce development initiatives across multiple industries in Syracuse and Central New York.”

As part of the FY 2024 Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul secured a historic expansion of the New York Film Tax Credit — one of the most robust and competitive film production incentive programs in the nation. As part of the budget, New York State raised the film tax credit’s annual cap to $700 million, added a capped credit for “above-the-line” salaries alongside the existing credit for “below-the-line” salaries, restored the credit to 30% for qualified expenses, and increased upstate filming up to 40% and added production costs. These changes will further increase the program’s stability, help attract productions, and provide a boost to New York’s film industry, which is one of the largest union employers in New York State.

About Empire State Development:
Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency (www.esd.ny.gov). The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing the Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NEW YORK,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit www.regionalcouncils.ny.gov and www.esd.ny.gov.

About WCNY:
WCNY was founded in 1965 as The Educational Television Council of Central New York. Today, it is a public communications organization that produces content across multiple platforms, including television and radio programs, dynamic web and targeted email content, the WCNY CONNECT magazine, and social media. Through its media platforms, in-person and virtual events, WCNY brings local coverage and educational services to Central New Yorkers. WCNY operates four digital, pledge-free broadcast television channels and three radio stations. Classic FM is one of the few radio stations in the world dedicated to locally programmed classical music, and Community FM features local people and local perspectives on immigration, education, veterans, health, arts, science and culture. Learn more at www.wcny.org.

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