The title seems counter intuitive but the economic impact and the social impacts reveal the nexus: jobs, tax base, and interpersonal synergies creating new companies. According the Arts Council of Kansas City, in Jackson County, there are 143 not for profits and art related organizations whose activities generate annually $252 million of expenditures! In the metro area, the combined arts groups employ more than either Sprint or Cerner! Arts and culture add to communities’ bottom lines while growing the top line as well by attracting the creative class seeing as 24/7, high energy, crowd whose interactions yield new ideas and new companies! Their activities create a common bond for participants across demographic and generational lines. They are likely to be highly engaged in community activities. It is no accident that brand name places like Austin, New York City, the Bay Area are homes serial entrepreneurs, artists and venture capitalists. And public/private collaborations are emerging. For example, according to the National Governors’ Association publication “Arts and the Economy-Using arts to stimulate state economic development,” The University of California Santa Cruz partnered with local industry to combine artists, designer and product engineers to stimulate new product development. Here again, leveraging creativity with business resources. And, right here in Lee’s Summit, fast growing Legacy Touch combines biometric science with art to create one of a kind, individualized memorial jewelry, rings and pendants of loved ones.
Marrying arts and economic development is good business. It has been a priority of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council. Our programs have featured the Nelson Arts Gallery, the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, the Lee’s Summit Symphony, R-7 singers and, Robotics! Why robotics? Because creativity comes in many forms and needs to be nurtured! Did you know that Lee’s Summit’s Robotics program routinely qualifies for the national program and had won it its category.
By now, savvy communities know that art is good for business. And so are parks, according to the American Planning Association. Both the arts and parks attract and retain the creative class and retirees who reinvest in their communities. That is why the Kansas City Area Development Council has a reformatted several initiatives to focus on promoting Creative KC to the nation and the world. Kansas City has just entered the game with the mayor’s formation of The Mayor’s Task Force for the Arts Interestingly, Lee’s Summit is the only community in the bi state region which has a Cultural Arts Plan. And it just adopted a Cultural Facilities Plan. According to the consultant study, cultural facilities “create and sustain a vibrant cultural community with creative industries, firms, and arts organizations operating in Lee’s Summit, leading to a diverse set of professional and community arts organizations.”
With these trends and findings, the city council is taking the next step: asking tax payers to considering a no tax increase bond issue to begin to lay the foundations for the future. The bond issue proposes an amphitheater, a home for our historical society, an outdoor performing arts space.
So the next time you kick back, maybe day dream a bit, know that you are not alone. The creative mind knows no bounds and is searching for connection, inspiration and meaning. Lee’s Summit is the place where enhancing a high quality of life through the arts, culture, leisure activities makes good business sense.
Jim Devine is President of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org