GoDaddy billionaire explains his affinity for doing business in the Airpark
By Wayne Schutsky
“All roads lead to the Airpark,” Bob Parsons says.
The renowned Valley businessman and philanthropist is celebrating the first anniversary of Sneaky Big Studios, the Hollywood-quality film production company and one of the serial entrepreneur’s latest ventures. Standing off to the side in Sneaky Big’s 4,000-square-foot soundstage following his press conference, Parsons doesn’t skip a beat when addressing why, again and again, he chooses the Scottsdale Airpark as the home for his various business ventures.
“It’s a big hub of business and there is a lot of economic activity around here (and) the pool of workers is great,” Parsons says.
The vast amount of small businesses in the area also gives Parson’s YAM Worldwide and its subsidiaries convenient access to a range of vendors and potential clients, and the company has enjoyed being a part of that tight-knit community.
“(We chose the Airpark) because we think the environment is really conducive, with the small businesses around us, for good vendor relationships and good business relationships,” Sneaky Big Studios CEO Marianne Guenther says.
Guenther doesn’t mince words when extolling the business benefits of being located in the airpark.
“Having the majority of the (YAM Worldwide subsidiaries) located here in the Airpark allows us to business quickly together,” Guenther says. “There’s nothing that replaces that face-to-face conversation (despite) how much technology has evolved in the world.”
When it comes to Sneaky Big Studios specifically, the Airpark’s proximity to both Scottsdale Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is a major factor in attracting out-of-state productions, Parsons adds.
Dressed in an understated dark blue suit paired with a black t-shirt, the GoDaddy founder could almost be mistaken for one of the movie producers his studio hopes to attract to Arizona, but he insists he has no plans to break into that part of the business.
But a lot more of those producers could be visiting the state – and Sneaky Big Studios – in the next few years, thanks to the large investment Parsons is making in the local filmmaking industry.
On this scorching afternoon in early August, Parsons invited media, local government officials and business leaders onto his soundstage, which is kept at a chilly 70 degrees, to announce that he will continue to provide funding for the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media.
YAM Worldwide will provide more than $300,000 in funding for the department, which focuses on bringing film and digital media production projects to Arizona. The Arizona Commerce Authority will match the donation in kind.
Both organizations gave $200,000 to the department in 2016, its first year of existence.
Prior to the big funding announcement, ACA President and CEO Sandra Watson introduced two new programs aimed at helping the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media attract productions to the state, despite the fact Arizona has no tax credits or exemptions for those productions, a major draw for popular filming locations like New Mexico and Texas.
The first program, known as the Reel Deals discount program, is being positioned as a replacement for tax credits. It relies on private companies that will provide exclusive discounts to out-of-state film productions. These vendors include hotels, restaurants and rental car operators.
The department is aiming for the Reel Deals discounts to amount to an aggregate 25 to 30 percent discount for film productions, though this will depend on voluntary vendor participation, Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media Director Matthew Earl Jones says.
The other program includes the creation of film resource coordinators for rural areas around the state that do not have an official film office. These individuals will use their knowledge of rural locations to help production crews with permits and other logistical issues.
Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and City of Phoenix Film Commissioner Phil Bradstock were also in attendance for the announcement.
“What (Bob and Renee Parsons) and the team at Sneaky Big have done, by building one of the most state-of-the-art facilities in the world and through the help with the Arizona film office, (they) have helped keep us in the game,” Stanton told the crowd at the press conference.
Addressing the crowd from the stage during the press conference, Parsons stated that the donation, quite simply, was good business. “One of the things you do as a business person is, you look to select business partners (that make it) easier for you to do business,” he said.
But it is also about so much more than that.
Much like the Airpark, Arizona is a special place to the businessman and if the donation says anything, it is that Parsons is not just paying lip service when he says he believes Arizona is “the last great state.”
If he has his way, audiences in movie theaters around the country will have plenty of opportunities in the coming years to see why he feels that way.