WASHINGTON — It's no joke: Both the federal and state governments are lining up to support the new National Comedy Center being built in Jamestown.
Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, announced Monday that the federal New Market Tax Credit would, in essence, provide $4.8 million in net funding for the comedy center.
That money comes on top of $8.3 million appropriated to the comedy center earlier this month in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's 2018 budget.
Together the two government actions give a big boost to a project that aims to put Jamestown on the tourist map and, presumably, stop people from comparing the city to Elmira.
The Chautauqua County city of 30,000 is already home to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy, but the National Comedy Center aims to be something much different: "The first national visitor experience dedicated entirely to the art of comedy."
Of course, some may joke there's a building with a big dome in the nation's capital that serves that purpose, but the National Comedy Center will be different than Congress.
The Comedy Center will include an interactive museum of comedy, which is already under construction, as well as a year-round calendar of performances and discussions and an educational component that supports young comedians and provides training.
And none of that would be happening if the government weren't there to help, said Tom Benson, chairman of the National Comedy Center.
"Through their efforts and the help of our many other public/private partners, we are now able to make this catalytic economic development project a reality," Benson added.
The federal tax credit that the comedy center will receive is one that Congress created in 2000 to boost jobs in low-income communities.
“The creation of the National Comedy Center is a transformational project that will attract tourism and serve as a driver of growth for the area," said Reed, who previously fought for and announced a $1.7 million Department of Commerce grant for the project. "We care about creating jobs for the hardworking men and women of our region and the investment in the site will accomplish this.”
Cuomo, in announcing the state grant to the comedy center, pointed to Buffalo as proof that such investments work.
"We know that phase one of Buffalo Billion is working," Cuomo said. "You feel it. You walk down the street you see it on people's faces. You hear it in restaurants, you hear it in bars. You see it in the numbers."
Then again, not everyone is amused that the state and federal governments are investing in comedy.
Proof came in a January op-ed in the Washington Times where Ed Feulner, founder of the fiscally conservative Heritage Foundation, made a mockery of that Commerce Department grant to the Jamestown museum.
"We all enjoy a good joke, but taxpayers probably won't be amused to learn that the U.S. Commerce Department gave $1.7 million to the National Comedy Center to build a museum in Jamestown, N.Y., that will feature holograms of dead comics performing," Feulner wrote.
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