UPDATED: Fayetteville hopes to land new TV series

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

UPDATE: This item was approved at the Oct. 3 City Council meeting. During the meeting, Arkansas Film Commissioner Chris Crane said the commission has been working on the project for about a year to get Arkansas into the final two states for consideration. Crane said it would break his heart to see the series go elsewhere since Arkansas is the setting. He said the production would place the city as a character in the series, not a caricature to be portrayed with stereotypes that would paint a negative picture.

Devin Howland, the city’s director of economic vitality, said a conservative expectation of the direct sales tax revenue in Fayetteville would be about $899,000 if the production were filmed here.

City Finance Director Paul Becker said the $500,000 would come from the city’s reserves in two equal installments over the next two years. Becker said the city’s available reserves would be at about $6 million by the end of this year.

City Council members Sarah Marsh and Matthew Petty said they believe the expected direct impact is very conservative, and that the numbers presented will easily create a return on investment that is too great to turn away.

Fayetteville could be the backdrop for a network television series.

City Council members this week will consider a resolution of intent to spend $500,000 over the next two years as part of an incentive package aimed at convincing producers to film a new TV show in Fayetteville.

The request comes from members of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s film commission, who said Fayetteville is in competition with one other location outside of Arkansas.

Devin Howland, the city’s director of economic vitality, said the unnamed series production has a total budget of $70 million and will take place over a nine-month period. He said the project has the support of Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Using a study from the Institute for Economic Advancement, Howland estimated the total statewide economic impact would be nearly $178 million if the series were filmed in Arkansas. He said over $19 million would likely be spent locally on materials alone, not including expenditures for lodging, meals, services or shopping.

The production crew for the show, Howland said, totals over 236 people with a payroll of about $38 million, and includes over 100 temporary “quality compensation” jobs for local residents.

Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, said the Ozark region is becoming a hotspot for entertainment programs, and noted the recent success of the Netflix crime drama series “Ozark,” starring, directed and executive produced by Jason Bateman. Less than a month after its release the series was renewed for a 10-episode second season.

“People have become totally captivated with the Ozarks and its scenery,” said Clark.

In his plea to City Council members on Tuesday, Clark called the new show a “first-class production” that would have a reach in the “tens of millions,” and said the city’s $500,000 commitment would be “the most significant effort ever made by an Arkansas city to support this type of employment and the creative economy.”

Howland said aside from the direct financial impact brought by the production of the series, the show would bring global attention to Fayetteville and have a lasting positive impact on sales tax revenue and tourism dollars.

If approved, the funds would be deducted from reserves in two equal distributions in 2017 and 2018.