By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2018 Issue
Deep South Studios, a design-build entertainment production complex in New Orleans, will become Louisiana’s first Qualified Entertainment Company under the state’s innovative new program that cultivates sustainable jobs for Louisiana’s motion picture, digital, music and theatrical industries.
Louisiana pioneered modern-era film production tax incentives beginning in 2002 and remains one of the leading destinations for motion picture production in the world. The industry continues to generate hundreds of millions of dollars annually in project-based spending across the state, from feature films to episodic TV productions.
To grow the number of permanent Louisiana jobs, the state created Qualified Entertainment Company incentives in 2017 that reward investment in permanent quality jobs held by Louisiana residents. For jobs paying $45,000 or more annually, the QEC employer is eligible for a 15 percent payroll tax credit. That credit increases to 20 percent for new jobs paying more than $66,000 annually. A similar incentive—the Qualified Music Company program, or QMC—is available for music-related companies.
“In 2016, I tasked our Louisiana Economic Development agency with finding solutions to make our entertainment programs more sustainable, with more statewide impact,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “The QEC model is an effective new tool for helping companies grow permanent entertainment employment in Louisiana. We’re pleased that Deep South Studios is putting down permanent roots here. They are at the vanguard of companies that will hire the brightest creative minds in the business to produce a greater economic impact for the entertainment industry in our state.”
Under the performance-based program, QEC applicants may qualify for up to $1 million in payroll credits per year. By creating and maintaining a minimum of five new jobs, each QEC may be eligible for the payroll tax credit for five years, with an option to renew for five additional years. QECs must be engaged in the development or distribution of audio, visual or audio-visual entertainment products for public consumption, and be approved by the LED Secretary.
As the first Louisiana company to participate in the program, Deep South Studios expects to complete the first three of its studio buildings in early 2018 for a total of 35,500 square feet of production and support space. Deep South Studios envisions a final complex of 11 buildings spanning 262,000 square feet, with a capital investment of $63.5 million. The company’s development site is in Algiers, located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
“Our QEC and QMC incentive encourages film production, digital effects, sound recording, live performance and other entertainment employers like Deep South Studios to hire locally, to invest locally and to build a permanent entertainment industry in Louisiana that complements and builds upon our slate of revolving productions,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “Through this initiative, we are providing a concrete way for in-state and out-of-state entertainment companies to accelerate their growth through meaningful, long-term investments and partnerships in Louisiana.”
In 2016, Deep South Studios developer Scott Niemeyer secured a commitment from the New Orleans Industrial Development Board to exempt some property taxes on the project through a PILOT agreement, or payment in lieu of taxes, over the initial 10 years. Deep South Studios is finalizing tenant negotiations for the initial structures.
“We are proud to pioneer the Qualified Entertainment Company program alongside LED,” Niemeyer said. “I have always envisioned the Deep South Studios infrastructure project as the poster child for LED’s efforts to build a long-term entertainment industry in Louisiana. We hope to set an example for more entertainment businesses to create lasting, quality jobs and sustainable economic growth for the creative industries here in Louisiana.”
Since the dawn of Louisiana’s modern-era film program in 2002, Louisiana has hosted more than $6 billion in film and television productions. In addition to creating thousands of jobs, these productions have generated significant spending through purchases at small businesses statewide.
Louisiana-based film and TV projects have delivered Emmy Award-winning and Academy Award-winning work while exporting content that demonstrates the state’s ability to build its cultural brand and the flexibility to portray other locales. Last year, Gov. Edwards encouraged LED to identify ways to build a more permanent base of entertainment jobs engaged in creating content within the state, with services ranging from screenwriting and sound recording to pre-production and post-production services for studios, digital effects, animation and other creative content and intellectual property.
“Louisiana continues to offer a first-class film and television incentive, and now we can offer a sustaining incentive to encourage companies to hire permanently as they grow their entertainment enterprise in the state,” Louisiana Entertainment Executive Director Chris Stelly said. “We’re excited about Deep South Studios’ commitment to the state, and expect this to be the first of many projects participating in our QEC program.”
CENTER FOR COASTAL AND DELTAIC SOLUTIONS OPENS IN BATON ROUGE
Last month, the $25-million Center for Coastal & Deltaic Solutions was dedicated in Baton Rouge by a group including Gov. Edwards, Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Baton Rouge Area Foundation President and CEO John Davies, President and CEO Justin Ehrenwerth of The Water Institute of the Gulf and CPRA Board Chairman Johnny Bradberry.
The elevated 34,000-square-foot facility combines global water management research with major conference space, co-working space and unprecedented public viewing of the Mississippi River. The facility is the most visible waterfront anchor on the 35-acre Water Campus located between downtown Baton Rouge and the Louisiana State University main campus.
Built at the site of Baton Rouge’s former municipal dock, the elevated three-story structure extends over the river, providing a plaza surrounding the structure for unprecedented public viewing of the Mississippi River beyond the levee. The centerpiece of the structure is The Water Institute of the Gulf, which will occupy offices on the second floor of the 34,000-square-foot structure. On the third floor, a major meeting space—The Estuary Conference and Event Venue—will play host to academic conventions, research conferences and public meetings and hearings, all focused on the preservation of Louisiana’s coast, and related efforts worldwide. Applied research projects of the 6-year-old Water Institute of the Gulf are taking place on a global scale and will inform major public policy decisions and public works projects in Louisiana, along the Gulf Coast and around the world.
The Center for Coastal & Deltaic Solutions joins two other facilities already completed nearby—the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority headquarters and the LSU Center for River Studies—as anchors of the 35-acre Water Campus that eventually will be home to an estimated 1.6 million square feet of commercial office, retail, restaurant, hospitality and residential space, along with a potential 4,000 direct and indirect jobs between Nicholson Drive and the river.
“Capitalizing on Louisiana’s growing stature as a center of global water management research and development, this iconic building contributes to the Baton Rouge skyline, marks the rebirth of the city’s former municipal dock, and serves as a focal point for the important work being done to save our coast,” Gov. Edwards said. “This project is the quintessential example of the impact we can make on our future through strategic investments in public-private partnerships.”
Construction of the Center for Coastal & Deltaic Solutions included vehicular and pedestrian pathways connecting the river facility to River Road and to LSU and downtown Baton Rouge via the existing Mississippi River levee trail. The design of the state-funded facility encourages collaboration of water management professionals across the Water Campus while also enabling the public to see and feel the river in a way they’ve never experienced before.
The Water Campus is a catalyst for development along the Nicholson Corridor between downtown Baton Rouge and LSU. It will provide a strategic location for interaction between regional, national and international coastal, environmental and water-related stakeholders, such as state and federal agencies; educational and research institutions; engineering, environmental, planning and consulting firms; and nonprofit advocates.
With completion of the Center for Coastal & Deltaic Solutions, the Water Institute will move from its current office in downtown Baton Rouge to its new headquarters in the building, where it will be joined by the nonprofit Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana on the second floor. On the first floor, additional tenants will occupy a co-working space that will be branded as the Waterworking venue. With 55 research scientists, engineers, technologists and other professionals today, the Center for Coastal & Deltaic Solutions joins the other anchor facilities to provide employment of more than 230 and over $60 million in combined initial capital investment.
“This center will house some incredible scientific minds working to identify solutions to address Louisiana’s coastal state of emergency,” CPRA’s Bradberry said. “But while we pause here for a few moments today, the crisis on our coast does not pause. Land loss continues, and that is why we continue to work day in and day out with a great sense of urgency, implementing projects, creating tens of thousands of acres of land and marsh, restoring our barrier islands, and building defenses to save what makes Louisiana the unique place we call home.”