Study: Arts worth $387M to state

By Maria Saporta
Friday, January 22, 2010

The arts are an integral part of the state’s economy. That’s the conclusion of a new economic impact study that surveyed 380 arts organizations in more than 70 counties across Georgia.

Using a conservative set of criteria, the study determined that 380 arts and cultural org-anizations in the state had a net economic impact of $387 million and contributed more than $18.6 million in tax revenue.

In all, those organizations had a total income of $722 million and total expenses of $692 million and attract an audience of 16 million people a year.

This study is considered to be the most comprehensive inventory of the state’s arts and cultural organizations combined with a detailed analysis of their economic impact.

The study was commissioned by the Metro Atlanta Arts & Culture Coalition as part of a report to the Friends of the Arts and Culture Coalition — a coalition of small, medium and large organizations across the state. The study was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP under the guidance of Bruce Seaman, an economist at Georgia State University.

“The nonprofit cultural sector is a big industry in the state of Georgia, and it generates significant revenue into the economy,” said Flora Maria Garcia, CEO of the MAACC. “We want the state leaders in business and the legislature to really understand that arts and cultural organizations are significant economic drivers in the state.”

Seaman often has been a critic of economic impact studies for overstating the financial contributions of events and organizations.

He said this analysis “reveals the additional revenue the state of Georgia currently receives, but would not otherwise receive if these arts and culture organizations did not exist.”

Joe Bankoff, president of the Woodruff Arts Center, said the study showed that there are “clusters” and “nodes” of arts and cultural organizations throughout the state.

“The effort here is to not fall into the trap of overblowing our economic impact,” Bankoff said. “More than anything else, it is an effort to get a real sense of why the arts count. The arts count in education. The arts count in attracting jobs. The arts count in economic investment and where people are going to choose to invest. And the arts count in terms of quality of life.”

The study showed that the state’s urban areas tend to have the greatest concentration of arts and cultural organizations, but the arts also matter in many of Georgia’s most rural counties.

“The arts is an important business in Georgia,” said Mara Holley, a senior vice president of government and institutional banking for Wachovia Bank who is chair of the MAACC board. “It’s a particularly important business in our leading cities like Atlanta, Savannah, Marietta and Augusta.”

“It’s great that we are contributing almost $400 million a year in economic impact, and there’s a vibrancy to the arts,” she added. “But beneath that number lies a fragile reality that our arts and cultural organizations across the state are struggling mightily.”

A recent study on creative industries showed that arts-related businesses employ 88,078 people in Georgia at 17,604 companies. That would include those working in film, radio, television, architecture, design, publishing, and the visual and performing arts, as well as museums, zoos and historical societies.

That study, conducted by Americans For the Arts, showed that Georgia ranks 11th per capita in the nation based on the total number of creative industry businesses and fourth per capita based on creative industry employees.

But Garcia said that Georgia only ranks 47th when it comes to per-capita state funding for the arts. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, in its annual Legislative Appropriations Survey, determined that the per-capita funding for the arts in Georgia for fiscal year 2009 is 40 cents a year compared with $1.22 in Alabama, 67 cents in Mississippi, $1.18 in North Carolina, $1.33 in Tennessee and 92 cents in South Carolina. Hawaii ranks No. 1 in the states with a per-capita investment in the arts of $5.63.

Garcia also said Georgia is one of only “seven states in the country that charges sales tax on tickets of nonprofit arts and culture organizations.”

Seaman said the statewide economic impact study did not measure the longer-term impact of having arts and cultural organizations in a community. The arts can be a factor when a company is considering moving to a community. They also help attract a creative workforce that companies rely on to grow their businesses.

At the Georgia Chamber of Commerce annual meeting on Jan. 11, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also was a Republican presidential contender, said states and school systems needed to invest in arts and musical education.

“This country has always been at its greatest when it created and innovated something,” Huckabee said, adding that there needed to be “renewed focus on music and the arts for every student” for the United States to remain competitive in innovation.

Bankoff agreed.

“Our competitive advantage globally is to be creative and innovative,” Bankoff said. “It’s particularly important that arts and culture are part of our creative industry.”

The new study now provides documentation of a county-by-county breakdown of the economic impact of the arts, which Bankoff and Garcia hope will make the point of how important those organizations are to the state’s economic health.

“Georgia is blessed with a wide diversity of high quality of arts and cultural organizations,” Bankoff said. “This is part of Georgia’s heritage. This is an asset, and we have to understand just how valuable it is.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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