Digital Domain layoffs: Port St. Lucie begins to take inventory

Tuesday, Digital Domain Media Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  This comes just three days after it laid off 280 of its 300 employees at its animation studio in Port St. Lucie.  That allows the company to continue to operate while it sets up a plan to pay back its creditors.  

Also Tuesday, the city of Port St. Lucie took its cameras into the 40-million dollar building it owns in Tradition.  Employees with the Department of Finance began to tag and document the 7-million dollars in high-tech equipment and office furniture it also owns.

 "It's Important to do that, we want to make sure none of the city owned equipment wanders away somehow is stolen or lost in some confusion between people coming and going," said Port St. Lucie city spokesman Ed Cunningham.

It will take the city the entire week to document everything in the building.

Cunningham said the city was blindsided by the sudden shutdown on Friday.  He said companies have started to reach out to City Hall to see if it would suit their business purposes.

With Digital Domain's bankruptcy filing, will the city ever get back any of the nearly 8 million in economic incentives it has given so far?

Cordell Professor of Finance at the University of Florida Jay Ritter says the city is fighting an uphill battle.

"Economic incentives are generally viewed as very low priority relative to paying off other creditors," said Professor Ritter.

Digital Domain also has a presence in West Palm Beach with the film school it just established in conjunction with Florida State University.

School officials say today's bankruptcy filing shouldn't stop what they're doing.

 "We're prepared to move forward with the program in any case. The program was built in such a way that we could succeed with or without our education partner Digital Domain Institute," said Frank Patterson, dean of the FSU Film School.

Patterson says the Digital Domain Media Group provided all the funding to launch the program and now it is self-sustaining.  Both Florida State and the City of Port St. Lucie are listed as two of the 50 largest creditors in the bankruptcy filing.  As part of the Chapter 11 reorganization, a company called Searchlight Capital partners offered to buy Digital Domain for 15-million dollars.  The company listed anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 creditors and more than 200-million dollars in debt.

As for those out of work, on Thursday Workforce Solutions is hosting a rapid response event at the Community Center across from City Hall to give those out of work the tools they need in their new job search.

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