Creative communities is officially mainstream

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.

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5 Responses to Creative communities is officially mainstream

  1. Allen Taylor says:

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

  2. mikel says:

    Here’s a quick two part question for you.

    1. Do you think animation is an ‘art’ (or does ‘arts and culture’ necessarily mean ‘non profit’)

    2. Would you be more or less excited if some of that ‘road money’ that Graham keeps talking about were invested in animation?

    just curious

  3. If you have read this blog you will know I am a big fan of animation, new media and even traditional media as economic development drivers. I am not so sure about movie production but I can see some economic value to it – more in the vein of tourism in terms of economic impact.

    I worry that policy makers will read this stuff and translate it to mean cultural tourism, art museums, etc. – which are not bad things at all but people should not be drawing straight lines between these things and economic development. Computer animation is an entirely different beast. They tend to be good paying jobs (relatively) and for the ones I know rewarding work as well.

  4. One last point on roads (actually, it won’t be the last in all likelihood). I bet if you did a little research you would see that spending on roads in New Brunswick on per capita basis is likely around the same as it has been in Ontario – maybe even a little higher although I’d like to see the numbers.

    Do you think it is at all a little strange that a province with no new population growth in over a decade should be building roads at the same rate of a province that has added 1.4 million people?

    That’s my disagreement with ‘road money’ as you call it. It’s easy for governments to build roads – no one asks any questions. The media never questions it. Neither does the opposition (except to ask for more). $44 million into an animation hub in the Miramichi would be far more criticized.

  5. mikel says:

    We’re both on the same side as far as roads go, and again, this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum-the biggest business families have GREAT interest in roads and it was no doubt THEM that really pushed getting rid of tolls, NOT NBers themselves. I’m reminded of that every day here when I see the Midland trucks roll by.

    Usually when I meet a new person to Ontario from out east the first comment they make is what shitty roads there are here. It’s taken longer to twin highway 69, which is more of a deathtrap than the trans canada in NB ever was, than it did to twin most of the trans canada in NB (neither are done). And this is a main highway only two and a half hours north of Toronto. I can still remember ten years ago taking a bus back from Sudbury and the traffic on thanksgiving was backed up to Parry Sound FROM Toronto. It took us 12 hours to make a two and a half hour trip.

    But my point was that this discussion-both here and in the media, needs to establish whether ‘arts’ investment simply means ‘publicly subsidized’. I’d agree that building galleries and museums isn’t going to increase economic development -although it may. But the bandwagon is worth jumping onto for the very reasons given in this blog-that ‘cultural’ industries are the biggest job growth industries in the private sector now.

    And EVERY political and economic investment should be criticized, but I doubt that there would be as much outcry as you think on the animation front. In NB, like everywhere, people are looking less at the government’s surplus, than they are at the availability of good paying jobs. If the government had come out and said how many jobs its new ‘beer’ brand would be creating, there would probably be less hostility towards it.

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