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Council Report: Television network may relocate to Stockyards

🕐 7 min read

Taking a cue from the folks in New York, Fort Worth and its Stockyards may soon be on televisions from coast to coast.

Fort Worth Economic Development Director Robert Sturns made a presentation to the City Council at its Nov. 8 work session, recommending approval of an agreement between the EDP and Rural Media Group Inc. (RMG). The agreement supports a corporate relocation project for RMG to the Stockyards. It also supports a community facilities agreement with Fort Worth Heritage Development LLC for subsequent public improvements in the Stockyards.

“Think of the Today Show in Rockefeller Center or WFAA in Victory Plaza,” Sturns said.

Both of those have programming that allows the viewers to not only see programming inside a studio, but to also see activity outside. For example, a performer could put on a show or concert with the public gathering around. That same public can be seen by the TV viewers while watching a program that is being aired.

Sturns said this is the culmination of a four-year effort to bring the RMG headquarters to Fort Worth from its current locations Nashville, Tennessee, and Omaha, Nebraska.

RMG is the parent company of RFD-TV, the nation’s first network devoted to agribusiness and Western sports. Sturns noted that it is broadcast in over 50 million households.

“This development would bring some national exposure to the Stockyards,” he said.

Sturns said there have also been discussions between RMG and the city of Durango, Colorado, as the Professional Bull Riders headquarters is there. Also, RMG are considering consolidating their offices into Omaha.

The project would bring a 6,000-square-foot studio to the Stockyards’ mule barns area. It would also bring up to 150 employees to Fort Worth.

However, Sturns noted that cost is a barrier for RMG’s potential relocation, hence the work with Fort Worth Heritage, the city, tax increment funding (TIF) and the state to make this happen.

The overall cost is a projected $7.8 million, Sturns said, which could be funded through a community facilities agreement capped at $7.9 million. Should the cost exceed that, the rest would be covered by Heritage, he said. Also, if RMG does not relocate or stay for the full 10 years of the proposed lease agreement, a provision is in place to recapture the funds.

RMG’s part of the agreement would include a minimum $5 million investment, with a guarantee of 90 full-time employees by 2021 and 135 by 2023. Also, RMG would guaranteed a $15 minimum wage.

RMG would also make commitments for local and minority/women owned businesses.

In addition, RMG would enter into an agreement with the city and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote verbal and visual references to Fort Worth and the Stockyards. This would include a minimum of 100 hours of annual live or ongoing content filmed locally.

“Based on an independent study, that’s about a $17 million media value,” Sturns said.

In connection with the potential relocation is the moving up of public improvements to the Stockyards, including Main Street to Packer Street and sewer line upgrades and rerouting from Mule Avenue to 23rd Street, near the Old Spaghetti Warehouse location. By accelerating those public improvements in that area would allow the developers of the Stockyards redevelopment project help RMG with relocation costs.

District 5 Councilwoman Gyna Bivens asked Sturns to be certain diversity is addressed in the project. She noted as examples the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum and Hall of Fame and the North Side Hispanic Western Culture.

“We have great diversity in the Western history we share,” she said.

District 2 Councilman Sal Espino added that making sure the Fort Worth brand is consistent throughout is important.

“Nothing is more frustrating to a Fort Worthian than when you arrive at DFW Airport and they say, ‘Welcome to Dallas,'” he said.

Sturns said the project will be on the council’s Nov. 15 agenda. Should it be approved, he likes the chances of RMG bringing its headquarters to Fort Worth.

“I think it’s really a natural fit for them,” he said. “This is where the West begins.”

Enterprise zone

Also in the work session, the council heard a report on a local agreement with Tarrant County to support the county’s nomination of Andrews Distributing Co. of North Texas LLC, EFW Inc. and Alcon Laboratories for Texas Enterprise Zones.

The Texas Enterprise Zone Program is an economic development tool for local communities to partner with the state to promote job creation and capital investment in economically distressed areas.

Andrews qualifies for a single Enterprise Project Designation (EPD) with a projected capital investment of $35 million in the construction of a new distribution center. It will retain 490 jobs and create 10 new jobs.

EFW qualifies for a single EPD with a projected capital investment of $32,500 in software, test equipment, building renovations, machinery and marketing demonstration equipment projects at its Tarrant County facilities. It will retain 544 jobs.

Alcon qualifies for a single EPD with a projected capital investment of $78.4 million for expansion and renovation of its operations at the existing plant at 6201 South Freeway. The company will retain its current workforce of 1,469 employees and add 100 full-time jobs, with an average salary of $89,994.

A single project designation allows for a state sales and use tax refund on qualified expenditures of $2,500 per job, for up to 500 jobs, with a maximum benefit of $1.25 million over a five year period. Under the Texas Enterprise Zone Act, at least 25 percent of the business’ new or retained employees must be residents of an enterprise zone, economically disadvantaged individuals or veterans. In addition, the jobs will be provided through the end of the designation period, or at least three years after the date on which a state benefit is received, whichever is later.

The council may consider the enterprise zone designations at its Nov. 15 meeting.

PEG funds, FWTV

The council heard a report on some coming changes to its government television channel, known as FWTV, and its video outreach as a focus area for the coming year.

Having not had the staff to address some untapped opportunities, the report said FWTV will re-allocate some staff to focus on expanding programming.

Plans for FY17 include:

*Adding a part-time writer and producer.

*Implementing the Fort Worth Independent School District intern program with three student interns through May.

*Expanding video opportunities through Facebook, YouTube and fortworthtexas.gov.

*Continuing and expanding remote broadcasting opportunities at public meetings and special events.

Expanded programming and special projects will include:

*Council district profiles.

*Additional programming and bulletin board on channel.

*Molly Minutes, short videos on various topics.

*Public art documentary with Arts Council.

*Cowboy Santas 35th Anniversary.

The channel is located at Charter Cable Channel 190, One Source Channel 7, Verizon Channel 5 and AT&T Uverse Channel 99. The channel includes original programming, televised meetings and programming from partner organizations.

The FWTV staff consists of one full-time supervisor and two full-time video producers. They also hire outside contractors to assist with videography and voiceover talent.

Starting this fall, the station will also hire three student interns from FWISD.

Before 2007, the FWTV staff included 17 full-time staff members. At that time, the entire staff was paid for out of Public Education Government (PEG) funds received from the local cable providers. The law changed in 2007 and stipulated that PEG funds could only be used for capital expenditures. All staff costs are currently paid out of the general fund.

Each year the city receives about $800,000 in PEG funds from the local cable providers. This amount is determined by the number of cable subscribers to each provider.

Clearfork first phase

The council, in its work session, heard a report concerning a deadline change for the completion of the first phase of the Clearfork Development Co.’s mixed-use project near the southwest intersection of West Vickery Boulevard and South Hulen Street.

The planned development, approved by the City Council in February of 2014, is to be constructed in two phases. The first phase was to be completed by Dec. 31 of this year.

In October, the developer asked the city for a 60-day extension because of inclement weather during the early stages from April to December 2015 that interfered with work such as grading, utility work and paving. The new request for completion is March 1, 2017, with all remaining future deadlines to stay in place.

The council will consider the request at its Nov. 15 meeting.

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