June 24, 2018
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The arts help drive the local economy

Courtesy photo | BDN
Courtesy photo | BDN
Michael W. Aube is President of Eastern Maine Development Corporation located in Bangor. He is a past Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development and former State Director of Maine USDA Rural Development.
By Michael W. Aube, Special to the BDN

The move from summer sun to apple cider and corn mazes signals the beginning of a new season of cultural activity in the Bangor region. Autumn provides us with options for new events, exhibitions and concerts from our local cultural and arts institutions.

The Bangor region is fortunate to have multiple options for all ages and interests. From museums and theater to concerts and galleries, the region is rich with choices. These wonderful opportunities provide much more than just something for our residents and visitors to do. The arts make their communities more desirable places to live and work. They’re also economic drivers for the communities. They help create jobs and promote growth in business. They help expand economic opportunity.

Arts & Economic Prosperity III, a 2005 report by Americans for the Arts, is the third study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry’s impact on the nation’s economy. The study, which is the group’s largest, features findings from 156 study regions (116 cities and counties, 35 multicounty regions and five states). Data were collected from more than 6,080 nonprofit arts and culture organizations and 94,478 of their attendees across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. According to the report, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity nationally each year. Further, the report says that spending of this magnitude supports 5.7 million full-time jobs.

According to Americans for the Arts, “the findings from Arts & Economic Prosperity III send a clear and welcome message: leaders who care about community and economic development can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts.”

The message is simple: Communities that support local arts and culture gain the benefits of jobs, investment and ability to compete in the 21st century economy. As we work to grow skilled-based and knowledge-based jobs, the arts and cultural institutions are critical partners in the economic development strategy.

Maine is fortunate to have outstanding art and cultural museums. In a 2009 report for the Maine Arts Commission by Chuck Lawton, chief economist for Planning Decisions Inc., and Lindsey Rowe of Arts Recovery and Reinvestment, economic impact from a sample of 14 Maine museums demonstrated that approximately 442,000 visitors contribute nearly $71 million in spending to the local economy. “Visitors” were defined as “those most likely to: reside in a state other than Maine; identify the primary purpose of their trip as vacation; use their car to arrive in the area; stay overnight at a hotel or bed and breakfast.”

The report concludes (using multipliers) that the estimated direct spending impact to the state totals almost $148 million.

The evidence is here in our backyard. Bangor’s University of Maine Museum of Art estimated in 2009 that more than $780,000 in annual spending was by visitors. Clearly, this benefits the local and regional economy.

As we start our fall season with the opening of shows and exhibits we also should remember that not only are our communities more desirable places to live and work because of the arts and culture in our region, but they also provide growth to our economic base.

Michael W. Aube is president of Eastern Maine Development Corp. in Bangor. He is a past commissioner of Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development and former state director of Maine USDA Rural Development.

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