Major economic impact

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Nonprofit arts organizations in Colorado Springs generate $94.7 million in economic activity, including 2,639 full-time equivalent jobs, $6 million in local government tax revenue and $2.8 million in state tax revenue, according to a study released yesterday by Americans for the Arts.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit compiled the information as part of a national study about the economic impact of the arts in 156 cities
The local version of Arts & Economic Prosperity was commissioned by the Bee Vradenburg Foundation. Forty-eight nonprofits in the Pikes Peak region were surveyed, as were 800 patrons of 2006 events.
The study showed that total attendance at arts and culture events was 1.5 million. Seventy-two percent of attendees were residents and 28 percent were non-residents.
The $94.7 million total includes $35 million in spending by arts organizations, and $59.6 million in related spending by arts audiences, including the cost of admission.
Most such studies include an economic multiplier, which estimates the number of times a dollar changes hands before leaving the community. These estimates are usually quantified as one number, by which all expenditures are multiplied. So if the number for the arts was 2.5, then the local arts impact would be $236.7 million.
Americans for the Arts did not use a multiplier, saying that “(such multipliers) usually result in an overestimation of the economic impact.”
The group employs input-output models tailored to each community, which “provide more reliable and specific economic impact results”.
Susan Edmondson, the executive director of the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, said the estimated impacts were “really conservative,” pointing out that Americans for the Arts only surveyed half the city’s arts and culture nonprofit organizations.
She said the study shows differences between people who attend arts and cultural events, and those at sports competitions.
“If you go to a show at the Pikes Peak Center, you’re much more likely to have dinner at a downtown restaurant or drinks afterward, whereas if you’re at a game, you buy your food and drink there,” Edmondson said. “That often means that your money is going to national concessionaires, so less of the money stays in the community.”
Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Corp., wasn’t surprised by the economic strength of the arts “industry”.
But, he said, it’s important to realize that the impact of arts and culture extends beyond the numbers.
“Arts and culture create and sustain the kind of place that people want to live in, to work in, to bring their companies and businesses,” he said. “Without that piece, we’re not whole as a community.”
The study estimates that the Colorado Springs arts audiences spent an average of $41 per person on non-event expenses.
The arts appear to have a greater impact on Colorado Springs (population 369,000) than in comparable cities included in the study.
In Tulsa, Okla., with a population of 382,000, arts organizations only accounted for $23.2 million in total industry expenditures.
Orange County, in upstate New York, with a population of 372,000 totaled $16 million, Mesa, Arizona’s 442,000 residents came in at $47.6 million and even prosperous Santa Barbara County, Calif., population 401,000, was substantially below Colorado Springs at $77.6 million.
Eve Tilley, president of the Pikes Peak Arts Council, was surprised that Colorado Springs scored so well compared to other cities.
“It really does surprise me, because it’s not evident,” she said. “So what are we complaining about? There are a lot of curmudgeons in this town who see the glass as half empty, but maybe it’s almost full.”
Experience Pikes Peak’s President Terry Sullivan was “excited but not surprised” by the findings.
“We undervalue arts and culture as demand generators,” he said. “We think that the remodeled Fine Arts Center will make us a true world-class destination for arts tourism — we’re going to be highlighting it in our regional ad campaign.”
Does spending on the arts simply reflect the flexible allocation of fixed family entertainment budgets? In other words, if the philharmonic and the Fine Arts Center didn’t exist, would their patrons simply re-allocate their spending to movies, or sporting events, or dining out?
Edmondson doesn’t think so, based on her own experience and the study’s findings.
“Arts fans are passionate about art — if we don’t have what they need, they will absolutely go to Denver to spend their money,” she said. “I remember after the symphony shut down, and the philharmonic hadn’t come together, lots of people called me to ask whether they ought to get season tickets for the Colorado Symphony in Denver.”
And, Edmondson concluded, arts nonprofits offer far more to the community than quantifiable dollars and cents.
“They’re jobs and organizations that have multiple meanings,” she said. “They create the context that attracts and keeps talented young professionals in town, they volunteer, they teach, they do so many things. They’re a big part of who we are.”
John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com