Fort Worth is going Hollywood.
Not exactly, but Fort Worth is one of only two cities in the state that make this claim, accentuated by a Sept. 25 Tweet from the city's Economic Development Director Robert Sturns.
"Just got word that our Media Production Development Zone was officially approved by the state. Looking forward to growing our creative class in Fort Worth!"
Sturns' excitement is understandable. Fort Worth joins Austin as the only cities in Texas to have such designation from the Texas Film Commission.
Back in June, as a prelude to this becoming a reality, the city council adopted an ordinance designating the Southside tax increment financing district as Media Production Development Zone Number One in Fort Worth.
A Media Production Development Zone is designed to encourage development of permanent sites for moving image production. Fort Worth is in the 19-county Metroplex Region recognized by the film commission, and this area could have as many as five zones if requested and approved.
The zone carries a two-year sales and use tax exemption.
"We’ve already had some significant interest from other media firms interested in accessing the zone," Sturns said. "So I think this will be another element in our toolbox to encourage growth in our creative and entrepreneurial industries. I think this will be a great asset for Fort Worth."
When Sturns addressed the city council in June, he stressed that the city has a growing presence in the film community.
Red Productions, owned by Red Sanders, is looking to relocate to a headquarters of over 7,600 square feet and add five jobs in the next two years and 15 over the next five years. Along with Red Productions, KCPFII Bryan LLC, newly created by Craig Kelly, announced plans to develop the project.
They are expected to generate about $92,000 in net new tax revenue, with about $295,000 in net new state tax revenue.
Part of the development will include The Backlot Studios in Suite 110, a fully functional studio space for rent for film production, photography shoots, and scoring by media professionals.
Other locations in the zone can be designated as Qualified Media Production Locations by the state and receive the same sales tax exemptions. There is a limitation of three locations allowed at any one time in a zone.
“The point of the zone specifically is to incentivize people to come and actually build the brick and mortar places here, to build things that actually provide more long term work,” said Sanders, speaking at Art&Seek's "State of the Arts" presents "Trailblazers: Fort Worth's Emerging Creative Class" at the Kimbell Art Museum on Sept. 28.
“We've been in business here for 15 years and employ people full time, so we're not that group that just comes into town and films something and leaves. [This is] a different type of incentive that says, ‘Hey go build something here that's tangible and real,’ then it makes it where you don't have to bill sales tax when we build it. Other than that, we pay all the normal taxes.”
Sanders said the Southside has seen a wave of creative industries take up residence in the area. Sanders noted that aside from film production, there is Niles City, the music recording studio where Leon Bridges recorded his first album.
“I think it's really cool seeing what's happening already on the Southside,” he said. “[I]t's a lot more fun now that there are creative shops around us, and it's really neat to see what's already been the fabric of the south side there that Near Southside [the nonprofit organization that works to revitalize the area] has worked on for so long.”
When it was announced the city was making an application, Jessica Christopherson of Visit Fort Worth and The Fort Worth Film Commission, which had a strong presence at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, said the zone will help greatly as Fort Worth battles for media business with other similar cities.
"As we compete with other major cities for this type of business, we believe the zone will also provide an opportunity to recruit new and existing businesses to the film-friendly atmosphere of Fort Worth," Christopherson said.