Arts as a business: Economic development impacts

Sharon Fisher//August 29, 2019

Arts as a business: Economic development impacts

Sharon Fisher//August 29, 2019

photo of boise philharmonic
Idaho arts organizations are starting to toot their own horns about their economic development value. Photo courtesy of Boise Philharmonic

The arts do more than cultivate the soul. They offer solid business benefits as well, according to Idaho economic development professionals.

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Juta Geurtsen

“’Arts means business’ has two ideas,” said Juta Geurtsen, community development director for Arts Idaho, the Idaho Commission on the Arts, based in Boise. “Arts is a business, and the arts are also a huge economic driver.”

In fact, arts and cultural employment is one of three drivers of urban economies –alongside science/technology and business/management occupations, according to urbanist Richard Florida.

As Idaho businesses, arts invest money into the community by hiring local people and buying local products. As a secondary effect, those investments create jobs and investment of their own, which also benefit Idaho communities.

Ballet Idaho, Boise Philharmonic, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Opera Idaho are all successful businesses in their own rights, Geurtsen said.

“They all have achieved the point of being a stable business, not just a nonprofit,” she said.

In fact, the Idaho Commission on the Arts regularly calculates the economic impact of Idaho arts organizations when sending grants to them using the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Calculator from Americans for the Arts, Geurtsen said.

“Diving into the data, we found it’s incredible what art contributes to the economy, and we need to be speaking that language,” she said. “We need to show stakeholders what they add – not just to the quality of life and attraction to new businesses, but what are the numbers, what are the dollars that they’re bringing to that?”

In addition, arts and other cultural activities attract other business, as well as tourists and conventions.

photo of carrie westergard
Carrie Westergard

“When visitors come to Boise, they might expect to see the Blue Turf or even a bustling downtown, but when they find their way to a Boise Philharmonic show, they discover just how serious we are when we tell meeting and convention planners that, if their guests want, they can take in an impressive philharmonic performance,” said Carrie Westergard, executive director of the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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Susan Davidson

The arts are also an important bellwether for businesses looking to site or relocate as well.

“Accessibility to the arts is one of a number of items on the quality of life checklist for employers and employees,” said Susan Davidson, manager of business attraction for the Idaho Department of Commerce. “Having a variety of the arts available in Idaho often makes it easier for a company to recruit employees to Idaho. The existence of the arts in Idaho clearly demonstrates the generosity of businesses and industry through their support. Prospective companies can immediately see how intertwined business and the arts are in our communities.”

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Clark Krause

Quality of life is a major component of business attraction, and the arts play a big role in that, said Clark Krause, executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership.

“As companies have struggled to find enough talent with the right skillsets, they have been paying much more attention to quality places that value arts, education, recreation, safety, meaningful planning and offer partnerships with key community partners,” Krause said. “Business wants to be where people desire to thrive in their everyday lives. The arts have always been part of how people are inspired to be creative and stretch the boundaries of what is possible for them and their loved ones.”

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Bill Connors

This is particularly true for Boise itself.

“Great cities have a rich portfolio of amenities for their citizens. The more diverse the portfolio of amenities, the better,” said Bill Connors, president and CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber. “The quality and quantity of these options enhances a city’s livability, and makes it stand out from other metros as an attractive place to live and do business.  For that reason, Boise’s rich arts scene is an effective tool in our economic development efforts.”