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July 12, 2012

New Engines of Growth Part 2

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Monday, after studying the report, New Engines of Growth: Five Roles for Arts, Culture, and Design, prepared by the National Governors Association, I found myself lost in thought about the role of the arts as an economic engine.


Later that day I met with a travel writer, Leonard M. Adkins of Richmond, VA, at the cooperative art gallery, Off Track Art, of which I am a founding member.


For three-years, the 10 artists in the cooperative have made a conscious effort to act as an arts and culture incubator for Carroll County as well as to promote the sale of our art.


Mr. Adkins, an outdoor and travel writer, photographer, and “The Habitual Hiker,” is touring Maryland through August 8 to update his book “Explorer’s Guide Maryland.” He visited Carroll County in 2001 when he first wrote the book and has been back several other times for updates.


It was exciting to talk with Mr. Adkins about the role of tourism, arts, and culture in Maryland. He has also written about the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.


As fate would have it, my wife and I spent last Saturday bicycling from Brunswick to Harpers Ferry and back, where we had dinner at “Beans in the Belfry” on West Potomac Street near the offices of our good friends, Mayor Carroll Jones and City Administrator Richard Weldon at Brunswick City Hall.


Located in a 100-year-old restored historic church, Beans in the Belfry is an excellent example of an artistic approach to adaptive re-use, and arts and culture as an economic driver and jobs creator.


The National Governor Association’s “New Engines of Growth” report is a must-read for anyone involved in the development of public policy that affects the arts and economic development.


The National Governors Association website elaborates: “Globalization and the changing economy have affected individual states differently, but all are searching for ways to support high-growth industries, accelerate innovation, foster entrepreneurial activity, address unemployment, build human capital and revive distressed areas.


“Using the five roles as a framework, state leaders – governors, economic development officials and state arts agencies – have a way to intentionally and strategically make arts, culture and design an important part of an economic growth agenda.”


“As I travel across this country, I have found one thing to be true in state after state: art works,” said National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman. “The National Governor's Association has laid out 5 strategies currently employed by states to use the arts to help strengthen local economies and drive innovation. I look forward to working with our network of state arts agencies to support governors in this work.”


Special attention is warranted for the notes at the end of the paper, which include hyperlinks to even more background on the subject for those who really wish to peel away the layers of challenges that lie ahead.


One would think that in economically challenging times, when local and state government are seriously impaired by the loss of tax income, the State of Maryland would do everything it could to encourage businesses to expand and hire more people.


Hopefully, critical members of the leadership of the Maryland General Assembly and the current administration in the State House will find the time to study the report.


Having said that, the report does note that “(i)n January of 2012, the State of Maryland released an economic analysis of its Arts & Entertainment Districts program…


“The new study, commissioned by the Maryland State Arts Council…found that businesses within Maryland’s 19 certified arts districts supported an annual average of 1,621 jobs and $49.8 million in wages between FY2008 and FY2010. Arts & Entertainment districts supported an annual average of $147.3 million in state gross domestic product during those same years. Taxes generated by new businesses and visitor spending at district events generated total tax revenue exceeding $37 million.”


There is no doubt that arts and cultural programming provide quality of life values to a family oriented community and serves as an incubator and creative outlet for our talented children. The artistic and cultural soul of a community makes our cities and communities better places to live and work.


An arts center also brings a substantial return on investment to a local community in the form of tax dollars, and increased economic vibrancy.


Not only does a strong and vibrant arts and cultural presence strengthen spiritually and philosophically – but it also strengthens a region economically. The artistic and cultural soul of a community makes our communities better places to live and work.


These centers are often an important factor used by businesses in their decision as to whether to locate in a particular community.


A prospective business will often gauge the health of a community by investigating the vigor of the non-profit community, the faith community, youth oriented programming, recreation opportunities and the level of art and cultural opportunities available for the community – and its employees.


Additionally, the economic impact statistics of this renewed emphasis on arts and cultural infrastructure are extraordinarily impressive.


A region is not necessarily transformed by the power, quality, and value of art – but rather, by the greater sense of vibrancy, economic impact, optimism and sense of self-worth it gives a community.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . . . .


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