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Seniors’ TV firm expanding

Company seeks abatement on $1 million building

A Fort Wayne provider of specialized television programming to senior citizens wants to build a new $1 million facility in the city.

RetirementHomeTV Corp. is slated to have its 10-year tax abatement request introduced Tuesday to City Council, according to paperwork filed last week. The company, 10020-B Lima Road, operates in 40 states and was founded in 2007.

President Kurt Schlabach said his business offers residents living in senior complexes an alternative to traditional cable by allowing them to choose networks that interest them in place of ones that don’t.

Channels such as MTV, Spike and Disney might not be favorites of grandma and grandpa, but Hallmark, Food Network and Discovery are, Schlabach said.

“We tailor the programming to their tastes,” he said. “When you’re older, you’re not exactly looking to watch Comedy Central and all that stuff.”

Schlabach said sales at the Fort Wayne company, which uses satellite dish giant DirecTV as its provider, were more than $1 million last year. Annual sales have increased at least 10 percent each year over the last five years.

Though it considers cable providers like Comcast to be competitors, those companies don’t have a niche audience like RetirementHomeTV.

“There’s only a couple in the country that does anything close,” Schlabach said, adding his costs are about half of what cable companies charge. The business also is not subject to cable franchise fees like Comcast and Frontier.

“We’re not a franchise,” Schlabach said.

Franchise fees require firms to pay the city 5 percent of either gross annual subscriber receipts or the franchisee’s gross annual receipts, whichever is higher.

Frontier Communications offers similar programming for hotels but not for the elderly, spokesman Roscoe Spencer said. Comcast representative Mary Beth Halprin said the company doesn’t offer specialized programming but does carry local community and sports events, such as live TinCaps games.

RetirementHomeTV wants to build a 10,000-square-foot facility inside an industrial park on Arden Drive near Engle Road and Ardmore Avenue. The abatement request is on $810,000 and would save the company $113,838.

If the request is approved, Schlabach will relocate his Lima Road operations to the industrial park. He has seven employees, and the expansion would result in 11 new positions paying $50,000 to $75,000.

Georgetowne Place services include independent and assisted-living in Fort Wayne with about 160 residents. Executive Director Al Wasvick said RetirementHomeTV installed components and programming at the complex.

“You can lease or buy the equipment, but we purchased. What I really like is that we have our own channel to let residents know about special events, menu changes or emergency alerts. We also can put up pictures of recent events.”

RetirementHomeTV also allows residents to see visitors at the door if their room is buzzed, Wasvick said.

“We already had the intercom system in place, but they added the video on the televisions for us,” he said.

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