Entertainment district incentives unused

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An Entertainment District approved a decade ago offers new or existing businesses tax incentives if they expanded or build, but so far no one has used the program, according to the Mississippi Tax Commission. 

The incentives created by the Mississippi Legislature in the Entertainment District Act in 2009 were for such businesses as theaters, amphitheaters, golf courses, automobile racetracks, museums, zoos, arenas, stadiums or similar venues.

The district would allow for new or existing businesses to receive a five-year tax incentive for capital investments made in the Entertainment District.

The status allows a business to depreciate capital investment on construction or renovation projects over a five-year period, instead of the current 39 1/2-year period.

In return, the qualifying business must collect an additional $2 per ticket, pass or admission for five years which goes back into the state’s general fund.

“The city of Philadelphia did make application and was approved as a qualified Entertainment District,” said Jacob Manley of the State Tax Commission in Jackson. “However, the Mississippi Department of Revenue has not received a request from any business wishing to participate in the program.

“Any entertainment facility wishing to participate in the program must submit an Application for Certification for Economic Development Incentives to the Department, a statement of election to participate in the program, a detailed description of the construction or renovation project, a listing of the entertainment services to be provided and the date they wish to start.” 

The district boundaries encompass an area extending from Eastgate Plaza on east Main Street to near Walmart on west Beacon Street.

The district would also encompass as far north as a section of Gum Street and south to Main and Walnut streets and Lakeside Drive.

Plans called for the Ellis Theater, Neshoba County Historical Museum, the historic Benwalt Hotel, the old jail on Myrtle Street and the Warehouse on Walnut Street to be included of the Entertainment District.

The proposed $30 million Marty Stuart Congress of Country Music downtown at the Ellis itself until it is open does not qualify, said David Vowell of the Community Development Partnership.

“The way I read the guidelines through the Mississippi Tourism rebate program, the attraction in ‘an entertainment district’ must be open to the public and accommodate at least 40 for seating; be open five days per week; provide live entertainment three nights per week, and serve food and beverage,” Vowell said. “We hope to satisfy all these requirements once the facility is at or near completion.” 

Mayor James A. Young said the district is another tool in the toolbox when it comes to economic development.

“The legislators at the time were looking for ways to enhance our downtown area,” Young said. “We tried to cover our main areas in case someone wanted to put up some sort of entertainment.”

Young said that if a business decided to apply, the city would not be involved.

“The city doesn’t get any direct income,” Young said. “This is an incentive for the owners to come in and renovate and things of that nature.”

The proposed $30 million for the Congress of Country Music still needs a funding source, but officials are optimistic. 

Rep. Scott Bounds was responsible for helping to secure about $4 million in state funding last year to renovate the Ellis at the center of the venue.

“We were able to get the needed $4.5 million dollars from the state, and the renovation of Ellis Theatre was phase one of the whole process,” Bounds told the Democrat last year. “It’s a good day for Mississippi, and especially the city of Philadelphia.”  


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