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Local study reveals economic impact of arts

Creative Minnesota, Minnesota Citizens for the Arts and the Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council released a new study Wednesday indicating that the arts have a large impact on Hubbard County.

The total annual economic impact of 15 arts and culture organizations, their audiences and 170 artists and creative workers in Hubbard County is $1.6 million.

The report was the first of 15 studies that will be released in January and February around the state.

"Nonprofit arts and culture organizations contribute to the vibrancy of Minnesota's economy and quality of life and make our state a magnet for jobs and businesses. Now we can quantify that for Hubbard County," said Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. "In addition to providing life-changing experiences, educational opportunities and accessibility to audiences of all ages in their stages and museums, arts and culture organizations are important employers and economic engines."

Two statewide reports, called "Creative Minnesota," were released in 2015 and 2017. The project is a long-term endeavor to collect and report data on the creative sector every two years for analysis, education and advocacy.

As the most comprehensive report ever done of the state's creative sector, Creative Minnesota fills in the gaps of available information about Minnesota's cultural field and seeks to improve understanding of its importance to quality of life and economy.

The Hubbard County report released Wednesday includes both new and original research and analysis of data created by others.

The Park Rapids City Council established an arts and culture advisory commission in 2011.

"The city recognized arts and culture events are a vital and valuable component of community life, providing educational, entertaining and economic betterment," said City Council Member Liz Stone in her opening statements at Wednesday's event.

The advisory commission developed an arts and cultural plan.

"We are fortunate in Park Rapids. Few cities have a plan of action," Stone said.

"The Park Rapids City has supported the arts for a long time," agreed Paul Dove, chair of Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council. "I think they'll be forward-thinking in a conservative way."

Hubbard County highlights

• Hubbard county enlists the power of 15 "small, but mighty" arts and culture organizations to prompt close to half of a million dollars in audience spending. The economic impact of just nonprofit arts and culture audiences in this region totaled $498,063. This spending at local businesses by attendees to their performances, arts crawls, concerts and activities is above and separate from the cost of the ticket to the event, and includes spending in restaurants, gas stations and other local businesses by the 23,865 attendees on the way to and on the way home from an event.

Arts organizations are serving more people than live in the county, Smith noted.

The average spent by an attendee is $20.87, and is money that would not have been spent in the community unless the event had occurred. Non-locals spent 80 percent more than locals,, bringing dollars to the community that would otherwise not be there.

"So it's a really good economic development strategy to be marketing the arts and cultural events in this county to the region," smith said, adding that residents in Greater Minnesota are willing to travel over an hour to a restaurant and two hours for an entertainment event.

• State and local government revenues generated from arts activity in Hubbard County are nearly $200,000 annually.

• In sum, a diverse, innovative and active set of organizations and artists are doing impressive work in serving their audiences, while positively impacting the county's economy. This report can serve as a baseline for measuring the arts sector's growth in the future.

• Fifteen nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Hubbard County served close to 24,000 attendees at arts and cultural events in 2014. This number includes over 4,000 K-12 students served annually.

• Direct spending by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations was close to $300,000 in Hubbard County. This spending, when combined with audience spending, supported 15 full-time equivalent jobs in Hubbard County.

• The total resident household income generated by organization and audience spending on arts and culture is over $366,000.

• The most common creative worker jobs in the county are photographers, musicians and singers, and writers.

• Surprisingly, the average hourly wage for creative workers in Hubbard County is $17.25, which is $1.47 above the average worker wage of $15.78.

"Kids are told not to pursue their passion. Well, the data shows us differently," Smith said.

• The direct spending of artists and creative workers in the community generates $121,299 in state and local government revenues.

The local report "quantifies what is happening in our community. We all see it. We all feel it," said Butch DeLaHunt, president of the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

"Economic development and arts and culture are definitely something that go hand in hand. Quality of life is very, very important in attracting new business and industry to an area. One of our fastest growing segment of our population is seniors. This is a place where people want to retire, and arts is a very important part of that," said David Collins, executive director of the Hubbard County Regional Economic Development Commission.

Molly Luther is co-chair of the Park Rapids Downtown Business Association (PRDBA).

"Just this past summer we felt the impact of bus tours in the downtown area," Luther said. "I was surprised when I learned that one of the motivating that helped sell tickets to the bus tours was that they made crafts along the way."

Main Street businesses also benefit from Northern Light Opera Company productions, 2nd Street Stage and Art Leap, said Luther.

Cynthia Jones, another PRDBA member, said, "The arts play a major role in broadening the appeal of Park Rapids and the surrounding county as a destination to local citizens, seasonal residents and tourists. Retirees, as well as young people returning to Park Rapids and the area, want and expect artistic experiences both for themselves and their families. Such experiences not only add vibrancy but contribute significantly to the overall economy of the area as this report dramatically identifies."

Local organizations participating in the study were Friends of Itasca State Park, Headwaters Center for Lifelong Learning, Heartland Concert Association, Helga Township, Hubbard County Historical Society, Nemeth Art Center, Nevis Public Schools, Northern Light Opera Company, Park Rapids Area Community Band, Park Rapids Classic Chorale, Park Rapids Community Ed, Park Rapids Lakes Area Arts Council, Park Rapids Library, Second Street Stage and Upper Mississippians.

"I have long been an advocate of justifying the arts for art's sake. It's so important that the arts are valued for their contribution to quality of place — important to a community, its visitors and to its potential residents and businesses. The arts have made the Park Rapids lakes area a great place to live. Now, because of the work done by Creative Minnesota, we can demonstrate the significance the arts play in the economic development of a community," said Dove.

All Creative Minnesota research is available for free at CreativeMN.org.

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