New Haven wants to use tax breaks to attract media companies to the city.
The Board of Aldermen is considering a proposal that would give tax incentives to media companies that set up shop in certain areas of the city. But first, the city must create “entertainment districts,” a state designation that allows municipalities to attract businesses with tax reductions without completely foregoing tax revenue.
The proposed tax benefits include 80 percent reductions in property and equipment taxes for five years, half of which the state would reimburse the city, meaning the city will get the equivalent of 60 percent of the tax revenue.
The incentives would make New Haven very attractive to small companies which may not be able to establish a business in a larger city, said Tony Bialecki, deputy economic director of the New Haven Office of Economic Development, which worked with the New Haven Economic Development Corporation to craft the proposal.
Michele Whelley, former CEO of the Economic Development Corporation, said the city wants to attract six new digital media business this year.
According to the proposal, three startups have already expressed interest in setting up offices in the city if the tax breaks are approved: videogame designer Poptank, animated film producer Golden Ocean, and media business development company Revyrie.
The city has been directly negotiating with these companies but has not yet finalized a deal, Bialecki said, adding that in the past week, two additional media companies have contacted the city about the proposal.
The proposal’s tax breaks would also benefit Yale students who want to start media businesses in New Haven.
But former Yale student Victor Wong, who left school to start PaperG, a local advertising technology company, said since most media companies have little physical property and equipment, they would not greatly benefit. But New Haven has an appeal for media startups that goes beyond tax incentives: New Haven is a great testing ground for a media company trying to reach a local urban audience, he said. It is large enough to be a test market while still having a tightly knit community.
According to the proposal, the entertainment districts would be located in Science Park, around the New Haven Green and in Fair Haven.
For the tax breaks to take effect, the New Haven Board of Aldermen must approve the proposal and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development must authorize the legislation.