Digital Domain to hire 200 in Port St. Lucie in next 6 monthsSeptember 21st, 2010 by TCPalm.com
PORT ST. LUCIE — John Textor, the chief executive officer of digital movie effects company Digital Domain Holdings, announced Monday the company intends to hire 200 people over the next six months, a move that represents a significant acceleration of its hiring plans.
Textor, who made his announcement in front of the City Council, said the company plans to search for potential employees at a “tech fair” at Digital Domain Park, formerly Tradition Field. While a date has not been finalized for the tech fair, Textor said a tentative date is anticipated for Oct. 9 or possibly the second week of October.
“Our goal was to get to 500 employees by the end of 2014, which means we would have been at 250 to 300 employees probably not for 2 1/2 years,” Textor said.
In exchange for a $20 million incentive deal from the state, Digital Domain had to agree to hire 500 people by 2014 at an average salary of $65,000.
Textor said the company is exceeding the state’s average salary requirement, which is now “comfortably” over $100,000, and that number excludes senior management.
New technologies in the film industry that have been available to Digital Domain’s affiliate companies in California and Vancouver are changing the way the company produces films.
“The technology is lowering the technical requirements of the employees that will be producing these films, which means that we’re able to significantly increase the pace of hiring by employing people that are literally fresh into digital media,” Textor said. “These are people from the city of Port St. Lucie that we didn’t think, until years of digital work or training at Indian River State College or other places, would be able to work at our facility.
“Three years ago this technology was impossible and required a much higher level of skills to be able to work on these films,” he said.
Monday’s announcement comes shortly after the company revealed plans to build the Digital Domain Institute, a four-year college focused on digital media, in West Palm Beach and in conjunction with Florida State University building a graduate program for its film school alongside Digital Domain.
Some Port St. Lucie City Council members were critical of Textor’s plans to bring FSU’s new film school facility to Port St. Lucie since the city gave the company an incentive package worth $51.8 million to build a 150,000-square-foot studio in Tradition.
The city’s incentive deal was a combination of federal stimulus money, and money from bond issues and developers. Digital Domain will be responsible for repaying the bonds to the city through lease payments on the studio.
Digital Domain and FSU have partnered to develop a digital and visual effects curriculum to share with other potential educational partners from around the state, including for an elective program offered at Indian River State College should the college agree to it.
Textor apologized to the council Monday for the misunderstanding that he would bring a branch of FSU’s film school to Port St. Lucie.
“What I did not communicate effectively is information related to our recently announced plan in West Palm Beach and our relationship with Florida State University,” Textor said. “I certainly apologize for how many of you learned about our expanded plans down in West Palm Beach.”
However, during the meeting, none of the council members pressed Textor on his decision to choose West Palm Beach for the film school, which some learned through media reports.
For the 200 hires, the company will be seeking people coming out of high school who have experience in graphic design, have just completed a graphic arts program or are just highly skilled in graphics design and computers. Textor said the company is not yet advertising what it would pay for these types of jobs, but “these will be substantial and attractive wages,” he said.
The people the company would be hiring for the 200 positions would get to work on the types of big film projects produced each year by its studios in California and Vancouver, Textor said.
Digital Domain would need to find additional temporary space in the next six months for the new hires because there isn’t enough room at its 14,000 square-foot temporary space at Tradition Station, Textor said.
City Councilwoman Michelle Berger said she was thrilled to see the numbers changing so quickly.
“I look forward to you coming in and making that huge impact in the next six months,” she said.
Since moving its headquarters to Port St. Lucie this year, Digital Domain has hired 54 employees. Textor said just under 40 percent, or 19 of the 54 employees, are actual film production and entertainment professionals and 35 are administration, managerial or jobs that are generic across many industries and not specialized in the entertainment industry.
“Those are jobs that can be filled by people in Florida and Port St. Lucie,” he said. “It’s not like any business could run successfully if we had to import all of our employees and pay relocation and other expenses associated with getting them here. So this really is intended to be a situation where we plant roots, and we train people and develop people that are homegrown.”
Textor said the company’s 150,000 square-foot studio should be finished in December 2011, and up to 450 construction workers are expected to be hired between November of this year and December 2011. While some construction work has begun, the foundation is expected to be poured in November.
City Councilman Chris Cooper said the construction jobs are very important to the citizens of Port St. Lucie.
“It’s interesting to see the spin-offs of this already happen as you’re discussing having to get more space for your employees and the housing market,” Cooper said. “It’s not just individual items that we’re doing here. It’s the spin-offs, and these things that are going to impact our community.”
By Alexi Howk