Creative industries help drive Revitalization

George Wilkinson

George Wilkinson

Next weekend on July 15, the Flint & Genesee Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) will present the 5th Annual “Be a Tourist in Your Home Town.” It’s a one-day affair that allows area residents and non-residents alike to tour more than two dozen venues in Flint & Genesee for just $1.

As CVB Director DeAndra McCain has said, this is a great way to get “to get a behind-the-scenes look at some of the area businesses or organizations that are helping to move our region forward.”

I want to focus particular attention on our rich variety of arts and culture resources. Few communities of our size in the U.S. can boast of having such a roster. The centerpiece is the national-caliber arts and culture district – the Flint Cultural Center. It’s anchored by the Flint Institute of Arts, the second largest art museum in the state of Michigan and one of the largest museum art schools in the nation.

Moreover, the region’s creative industries – defined as arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture and design companies – are critical to our ongoing revitalization efforts. Arts businesses and the creative people they employ help stimulate innovation, strengthen our region’s competitiveness in the marketplace of ideas, and play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy.

A recent national study by Americans for the Arts quantifies the economic impact of the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry. According to the study, the creative sector generated $166.3 billion in economic activity in 2015—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related spending by their audiences. The sector also supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in government revenue, the study found.

Here are a few other findings:

The typical arts patron spent $31.47 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission. A vibrant arts community not only keeps residents and their discretionary spending closer to home, it also attracts visitors who spend money and help local businesses thrive. Sixty-nine percent of nonlocal attendees indicated that the primary purpose of their visit was “specifically to attend this arts or cultural event.”

Among local attendees, 41 percent said they would have traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event, if the arts event they wanted to attend was not taking place. Although the study’s findings do not include a detailed look at Genesee County, the data provide a useful metric in understanding the economic significance of our arts and cultural institutions.

Genesee County is home to 738 arts-related businesses that employ 2,683 people. The creative industries account for 3.8 percent of the total number of businesses located in Flint & Genesee, and 1.7 percent of the people they employ.

Some of those organizations will take part in “Be a Tourist in Your Home Town,” including: Flint Children’s Museum, Greater Flint Arts Council, Longway Planetarium, M-W Gallery, Sloan Museum, The Whiting and Stockton Center at Spring Grove Museum. There’s also the Flint Handmade Summer Art & Craft Street Fair at Flint Farmers’ Market.

Collectively, these organizations contribute to our economic vitality, tourism, ability to attract an innovative workforce and overall quality of life.

I invite you to come out on July 15 and see for yourself.

George Wilkinson is Group Vice President of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce with oversight of Flint & Genesee Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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