How to generate economic development by leveraging the Creative Economy

Here’s what I said during the 8/19/15 Warren County Town Hall to the Upstate Revitalization Initiative representatives, with a summary of the best ideas that I’ve heard in my work as a Creative Advocate for the Regional Alliance for a Creative Economy:

We need to strengthen, connect and brand our area’s cultural, arts and entertainment assets. Consider the $2.3 million that The Hyde Collection’s Georgia O’Keeffe show generated in economic impact in 2013. Tourism dollars matter, and the arts are our strongest magnet for those dollars: Theaters, museums, galleries, music venues and events.

We don’t have to just ask for free money — we can “wish for more wishes” by using some of these dollars to appoint development professionals at each organization. Those professionals can work on the job of finding more money in the community to expand the organizations’ programming.

We need to connect the organizations in each county — an “Arts District” in every pot! Shared marketing dollars, shared information and shared resources will strengthen them all.

The organizations not only generate tourism dollars, they make our area a better place to live, enhancing the quality of life so we don’t lose our future generations to the promises of the West. And when these organizations offer education, business training, connection to opportunity and development of higher levels of skill to individuals working creatively, they are multiplying the number of creative people who are able to freelance, creating their own jobs and creating their own businesses which then create even more jobs! Jobs, jobs, jobs.

We need to cohesively brand ourselves: A “Made in New York” brand to boost the success of our local makers — not only Washington County jewelers like Ed Levin, not only individual painters and potters and photographers, but also the manufacturing and agricultural industry. A “Stuff Made Here” statewide or regionwide campaign would not only encourage our own people to spend their dollars locally, enhancing the local economy, but it would also create a desirable brand for national and international buyers, if marketed to those regions beyond.

We can consider an Etsy type of website for Made in New York, even, where organizations, farmers, artists, businesses can manage their own online stores within a greater website that offers cross-promotion and external promotion in a big way under a collective brand.

The arts MUST be included in any economic development discussion.

Kate Austin-Avon

Kate E. Austin is known for her creative advocacy. She is a regular speaker on branding and social media with educational institutions and Chambers of Commerce. She owns and operates Advokate, LLC. Currently she serves on the boards of the Glens Falls Business Improvement District, the Jackson Heights Elementary School PTA, Lower Adirondack Pride, and is on the World Awareness Children’s Museum’s Advisory Council. Originally from Killington, Vermont, she studied art at Hartwick College and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Visual Art from Empire State College. She is a mother of three.