The Jacob Burns Film Center Is an Economic Powerhouse in Westchester

Outside the Jacob Burns Film Center. Photo by Dave Zucker

While many simply think of the Jacob Burns Film Center (JBFC) as a lauded nonprofit arts and education organization, the center is also a major driver of the local economy. The JBFC recently released their first Economic Closeup to examine the organization’s effect on Westchester County, and the numbers paint a picture of an established nonprofit with an outsize economic impact. Approximately 225,000 people frequent the center a year, with more than three million individuals visiting the center since its founding in 2001.

This massive audience attends the center’s varied programming, which operates on an $8 million annual budget. Aside from the sheer volume of the center’s work, the JBFC report also shows it to be a top job provider in the area.: They currently employ 50 full-time workers and 100 part-time workers, making them the fourth-largest employer in Pleasantville.

In addition, permit-fee revenue has increased considerably in the past few years, in part thanks to the work of the JBFC. The report cites a 70% increase in on-location production days in the county and 130% increase in permit revenue since 2014. In 2016 the county collected $500,000 in this revenue, while municipalities in the county collected $700,000.

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The economic power of the JBFC goes beyond just the numbers, according to Edie Demas, executive director of JBFC. She, says “The collective economic impact of the center’s members, students, and theatre-going patrons goes beyond just measuring jobs and overall economic activity generated by their direct financial support.” The JBFC also serves the community with a variety of educational programs, she adds. “We are also the driving force behind a rich film and media culture, which in turn catalyzes production and research, consultancy and related services, fostering a thriving network of revenue-generating local, regional and national businesses, while also developing human capital through the creation of uniquely talented, specially trained and highly engaged individuals applying their craft locally, if not regionally,” Demas notes.

The JBFC’s literacy programs serve 13,000 students, including 70% from under-resourced areas of the community. They further support the hopes of local filmmakers with a fellowship program to allow them stipends, equipment, and space in order to create potential films to submit to major film festivals. The Jacob Burns Film Center is an economic powerhouse for the county in a variety of ways. Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce President, Bill Flooks says, “As a cultural institution, you cannot overstate the positive impact the Jacob Burns Film Center has had on the local economy.”

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