And so it begins. The influential National Governors Association Center for Best Practices has a new report entitled: Arts & the Economy: Using Arts and Culture to Stimulate State Economic Development.
The report draws a direct link between investing in arts and culture infrastructure and economic growth. There is no data to support this conclusion but the report does reference Richard Florida.
I recommend that economic developers and interested people read this report. It’s a good report. It lays out a compelling case complete with a number of state examples.
But I reiterate my concern with this whole process. If we are diverting funds from high impact direct economic development efforts on the theory that building museums will attract industries, I think it is a risky proposition. You could put the Bolshoi Theatre in Tracadie and I still don’t see that solidifying the case for large manufacturing companies to set up in the North.
I know that some of you are already to hammer me on this but hear one more point. I am not saying arts & culture are not important in the realm of economic development. I am just not sure of where it fits in the mix and how much priority it should have versus other issues. We know that roads, telecom, rail, natural gas, ports, lack of crime, liveable cities, competitive tax regimes, professional city staff, good community marketing efforts, supply chains, schools, colleges, training firms, hospitals, housing, parks, lifestyle amenities, airport, proximity to urbanity, etc. etc. etc. all influence economic development. But I worry if we place too much emphasis on one or the other – we will miss the boat.
Of course as of today this is a moot point. There is no serious effort from government to pile taxpayer dollars into arts and cultural infrastructure. There are some balanced investments at the city level and other levels of government have put small amounts in. But if they start radically cutting investment attraction efforts to build cultural tourism venues around the province, I won’t be too thrilled.