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 Saints Row  studio wants cash incentives to stay in downtown Champaign
Saints Row studio wants cash incentives to stay in downtown Champaign
July 15, 2014 | By Mike Rose

Saints Row studio Volition has asked the city of Champaign, Illinois, for around $200,000 in incentives, otherwise the company says it may have to move its headquarters.

Volition moved to its current offices in Champaign back in 2004, and is now planning to expand and hire up to 100 new staffers.

But according to The News Gazette, Volition's new owner Koch Media says that such a remodelling will be cost-prohibitive, and as such it would like the city to provide cash incentives for it to stay put.

"The German company that owns them has indicated that they should select the most cost-effective location," a memo from city staff says. "Because of this, they are requesting that the city consider helping level the playing field between other locations and staying downtown."

The city of Champaign will be keen to keep Volition in the downtown area -- according to a survey, employees at the studio spent around $375,000 on restaurants and retail stores in the area last year.

[Update: Additional information has been added to reflect that Volition may have to move out of downtown Champaign, rather than the city itself.]

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Luke Schneider
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There are some missing/inaccurate facts above.

1) Volition has always been in Champaign. They moved downtown (to an office building called One Main) in 2004. They signed a 10-year lease at the time (which expired in June 2014 I believe).

2) Volition wasn't threatening to leave Champaign, but they were thinking about moving to a new facility on the north side of town that is cheaper than One Main.

3) In order to hire new staff, they would have to remodel the remaining office space in One Main. They occupy about 80% of the One Main office space currently, and the remaining office space has been used for other purposes for the last 10 years.

I would also say Volition was a key part to the downtown area becoming what it is today (aka a lot nicer than it was 10 years ago).

Mike Rose
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Hey Luke, apologies for that - it would appear I misread the original report. I've updated the article to reflect the additional facts


Adam Merkel
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I don't think Koch Media, perhaps even most publishers or developers fully understand the benefits of where Volition is located compared to say, Silicon Valley, New York, Seattle, or Chicago. While Champaign is the home of Illinois University, it's a small city with a much lower cost of living compared to anywhere else I've mentioned. In fact, much of the Midwest has lower costs of living and affordability, and the development is strong enough in areas that the resources can support the industry. If Koch moved Volition to one of the areas I mentioned before, they're not looking at the long-term costs very closely. Actually, I'd go as far as saying that Koch Media shouldn't be asking Volition to move, but consider founding and/or offering support to new studios in that region of the US.

In fact, I'll just say this: If anyone who reads this wants to start a new development studio in the US, consider founding that studio in a Midwestern college town to test the waters. You'll be surprised at how much more manageable and affordable it is compared to the more common choices. Silicon Valley and Seattle might have the talent and the culture, but due to saturation (maybe over-saturation?) and competition, the price of entry is simply too high. Additionally, the Midwest needs the job diversity - Not everyone wants to be a farmer, miner, truck driver, factory worker...

Justin Kovac
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I am surprised there are not more larger tech companies in the Midwest. I guess the ability to meet face to face with others in your industry trumps costs?

Cost of living, utilities, business expenses are a lot cheaper.

Ian Custer
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A lot of this is simply due to brain drain, which is a very real thing out here in the Midwest (I live in Indianapolis). There are very, very few tech companies out here, yet we have a glut of excellent colleges. Indiana in particular has Purdue and IU (to name two), which produce excellent students who all pack up and move away pretty much immediately after graduation, since there's no job market here to support the skills they've acquired. I'm a year out from finishing up a master's degree at IU and if I want to find a job that uses my degree (information science), I need to move West.

It's a shame, because I do like living out here, for the most part. Indianapolis is cheap to live and work in, and I've got a lot of roots set down - mine and my wife's families both live here in state. Unfortunately my job options are extremely limited.

Michael Joseph
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@Justin Kovac

indeed. there's lots of intangibles that go along with working in one of the main tech hubs.

economics matter of course but it's a sad business person who only considers the financial cost of every decision.

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Mikhail Mukin
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I wonder what is the salary level there... Just for example, CNN's cost of living says $100K in Los Angeles is $74.7K in Champaign, IL. However... it does not feel quite right. I'm not going to buy a house or anything big (not soon anyway - and probably not in a place that has like one company I can work at...). So even if ~$1800/month LA rent is under $900/month (sorry, don't know about IL, but a few years ago $900 was ok for Atlanta) - it is ~11K savings/year. I do not go to restaurants (much), concerts etc. I buy almost everything but food online anyway. Maybe some state/sales tax makes a big difference?

hehe - yep, for ~$200 I could almost fill my car with food from World Market in Atlanta (and with some supposedly decent "organic/blablabla" stuff) and in LA $150 is a trip to Whole Foods with 2 bags I just carry in my arms... But still, $100K / $75K calculated difference does not "feel" right (?)

But most importantly... you can not buy Californian weather and ocean and intelligent people from all over the world. After my short trip trying to work outside SoCal, I realized how much I value it.

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Terry Matthes
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Nail on the head.