National Comedy Center secures $5M capital campaign goal

Work continues on the National Comedy Center in Jamestown at Washington and Second streets.

Work continues on the National Comedy Center in Jamestown at Washington and Second streets.

JAMESTOWN — The National Comedy Center, the first national-scale non-profit cultural institution and visitor experience dedicated to comedy, has secured all funding for its capital budget with the closing of a Federal New Markets Tax Credit transaction that provided the Project with approximately $5 million of equity funding.

In April, the National Comedy Center Project received a $3 million grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and a $5 million grant from New York state which was unveiled by Governor Cuomo in his State of the State Address as part of the Buffalo Billion II program. These two grants provided the critical leverage that was required as the New Markets Tax Credit closing was predicated on having all other necessary funding in place.

“The National Comedy Center is poised to draw audiences from near and far to Jamestown serving as an economic catalyst in the city and throughout Western New York”, said David Egner, President and CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “While capital projects are not a primary focus for the Foundation, we were excited at the opportunity to provide an additional lift to the strong collaborative of public and private supporters to help make the Center a reality.”

“We are thrilled that our capital campaign has been successful and that we can now focus our attention on making this world class attraction come to life”, said Tom Benson, Project Chairman. “This is a true public / private partnership that will generate significant economic development opportunities for all of Western New York and we are very thankful for the wide range of support that we have received. Every contribution to and endorsement of this endeavor that we have received over the past 5 years has provided the incremental credibility and momentum that was absolutely critical to keep the Project moving forward”, he added.

The Gebbie Foundation has been the lead private source of funding, along with the John R. Oishei Foundation, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Lenna Foundation, Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, Johnson Foundation, the Jessie Smith Darrah Fund, and various private donors.

Without New York state’s assistance, the National Comedy Center would not have sufficient funds to initiate the establishment of the Comedy Center or adjacent Comedy Plaza. The Project has received $4,359,000 in funding from Empire State Development and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, through rounds four, five and six of the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. Gov. Cuomo also committed an additional $5 million to the National Comedy Center through phase II of the Buffalo Billion initiative. Also, the US Department of Commerce provided nearly $2 million in grant funding for the Project through its Economic Development Administration program.

Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said,” We applaud the National Comedy Center for reaching its capital funding goal, as the NCC’s success is a critical component of the State’s long-term strategy to bolster the tourism industry. We look forward to the 100,000 visitors and $23 million boost it will bring to the local economy each year.”

The Federal New Markets Tax Credit Program incentivizes community development and economic growth through the use of tax credits that attract private investment to distressed communities. The community development entities who provided the NMTC allocation to the Project that made the financing possible included Empire State New Market Corporation (New York, NY), TruFund Financial Services, Inc. (New York, NY) and Mascoma Community Development (Hanover, New Hampshire). US Bank (St. Louis, Missouri) was the investor / buyer of the credits.

“The economic impacts and job creation potential of this project are essential to the revitalization and growth of Jamestown”, said Aisha Benson, Executive Vice President, TruFund Financial Services, Inc. “We at TruFund are ecstatic to be partnering with other CDEs to make this innovative project a reality.”

The National Comedy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural institution in Jamestown, NY, and is developing the first national visitor experience dedicated entirely to the art of comedy, with a goal of opening in 2018. The Center is comprised of three functions: a 35,000 square foot immersive exhibit experience / museum that is under construction following its 2015 groundbreaking, a year-round calendar of live performance and discussion-leading programming on comedy, and an educational component supporting aspiring artists and providing comedic arts education.

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