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April 29, 2008
UD to Host Grasshorse Animation Studios

On Thursday May 1, the University of Dubuque will host Stephen Jennings of Grasshorse Animation Studios. Jennings will address issues such as employment opportunities in the animation industry, and the industry outlook for Iowa. The seminar will be held at 4:00 p.m. in Room 201 of the Dunlap Technology Center; it is free and open to the public.

Stephen Jennings is an Iowa native who worked in the digital entertainment industry in California. He founded Grasshorse Technologies, an animation and special-effects film production company whose clients include the Cartoon Network and Warner Brothers Studios. Jennings recently took advantage of an opportunity to bring him back to his roots - the Iowa Film, Television, and Video Project Promotion Program. The program offers tax incentives to production companies that film in the state. Benefits include a 25% tax credit on all production expenses incurred in Iowa and a tax abatement for all film, video, or movie vendors working in Iowa.

A 2007 study by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) reports that the US computer and video game industry's annual growth rate from 2003 to 2006 exceeded 17%. This rate far surpasses the US economy as a whole which only grew at 4.0% during this same period. According to the study, Video Games in the 21st Century: Economic Contributions of the U.S. Entertainment Software Industry, the US entertainment software industry directly employs more than 24,000 individuals, with an average salary of $92,300 in 2006.

"Animation and special effects is an exciting career area for students," commented Brad Kaldahl, faculty member in the University's computer graphics and interactive media (CGIM) department. "Alan Garfield, CGIM department chair, is an innovator in Iowa - introducing this high tech career to UD students. The push by Governor Culver and the Iowa Department of Economic Development to attract companies like Grasshorse to Iowa is fantastic and can only benefit Iowa students. Events like this provide a chance for students to hear from industry experts and employers, and learn about what real world animation production is about."

Mr. Jennings talk is the last in a series sponsored by the CGIM Department. The series, called "In the Hot Seat", focused this year on visits by CG industry experts. It has included Chris Hughes, founder of Facebook, and Mark Butler, Webmaster for Comedy Central. A popular series with students, the department plans to continue it during the 2008-2009 academic year.