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Show-Me Showbiz

Jul 1, 2024

Missouri already is known as a logistics hub. More than one-third of the nearly 160 corporate facility investments tracked in the state since January 2023 by Site Selection's Conway Projects Database have a distribution function, with another one-third devoted to manufacturing sites that also need goods movement.

Missouri is also already known as a legacy hub for minerals, going back to the days of lead mines for batteries and continuing to the present day, when the state, led by the University of Missouri System, has been pegged for one of the U.S. Economic Development Administration's 31 Tech Hubs. The Critical Minerals and Materials for Advanced Energy (CM2AE) Tech Hub aims "to position south-central Missouri as a global leader in critical minerals processing to provide the materials needed to support battery technology" for both lithium-ion and primary-lead-acid batteries."

But is the Show-Me State known as a hub for showbiz?

Driving along I-64 in the St. Louis suburb of Chesterfield in early June, my father and I (and thousands of others) were distracted to the point of pulling over by the Blue Angels rehearsing their show directly over our heads in preparation for an airshow that weekend at nearby Spirit of St. Louis Airport.

Not nearly as thunderous but head-turning nonetheless was a complex rising there in the flats on the approach to the Missouri River, where there is already substantial investment in retail and high-quality sports complexes. Originally announced in 2021, Gateway Studios & Production Services is not your everyday film and TV production complex. Its primary focus is development of a live touring act rehearsal complex and production services company. St. Louis beat out film-happy Georgia and live-act-rich Nashville for the project. 

The $150-million, 32-acre site is expected to open this year and employ more than 100 music and film manufacturing and production professionals who will tend to the "manufacturing, building, testing and launching of globally touring musical acts and movies." Organizations involved in attracting the project included the State of Missouri, St. Louis County, the City of Chesterfield, Missouri Partnership, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, Ameren Missouri and Greater St. Louis, Inc. 

As of this summer, the project was on track, complete with a main studio as big as a football stadium in order for musical acts to acclimate to that kind of performance space before heading out on tour. The complex also aims to serve the motion picture, television and video production sector. 

According to a March 2024 report from the Motion Picture Association (comprising six major film studios), the U.S. film and TV industry in 2022 supported 376,000 direct jobs engaged in producing, marketing, and manufacturing motion pictures, television shows, and video content. The average wage for production-related jobs was $102,909. A map with dots representing individual businesses was accompanied by the statement that Motion Picture Association member companies in 2022 made $33 billion in payments to more than 240,000 local businesses across the nation. A magnification of the map showed distinct clusters of those businesses in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas. 

To help those companies grow and attract more productions to the state, Gov. Mike Parson in July 2023 signed into law the Show MO Act, which provides a 20% tax credit for qualifying expenses and doesn't sunset until the final day of 2029. A previous film production tax credit in Missouri existed from 1999 through 2013, when it expired. 

In March, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which administers the credit alongside the Missouri Film Office, announced "On Fire," a film telling the story of a St. Louis native who overcomes near-fatal burn injuries, was the first feature film to receive funding through the Show MO Act. In-Missouri spending for the production totaled nearly $6.9 million over 19 days of filming and more than 550 Missourians were employed, the department announced. The film received $2.75 million in tax credits. 

This article originally appeared in Site Selection