According to a news release from the Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development, Vermont has named former director of the Vermont Film Commission and Tisch film graduate, Joe Bookchin as the state’s new director of the Office of the Creative Economy. The purpose of the newly created office is to stimulate and encourage the state’s burgeoning creative economy, defined in the release as “Creative enterprises—from web designers and software game programmers to architecture, e-commerce, graphic design, publishing and film and new media companies, among others… .” Plans to accomplish this include cultivating public-private partnerships between businesses and cultural organizations, assisting business start-ups and helping creative companies identify sources of loan capital.
As I read the release, I became curious about the economic importance of our industry and what’s being done in the other forty nine states to encourage and support it. In their report, Creative Economy Report 2010: A Feasible Development Option, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) states creative enterprises represent substantial economic opportunity, with “Global exports of creative goods and services… reaching nearly $600 billion dollars.” in 2008. And, in the past year or so a good amount of press has been given to “design thinking” as a sought after trait in business, as described in this Businessweek article. While I thought for certain that other states would have their own Offices of the Creative Economy, mostly what I came across were Arts councils or agencies whose primary focus was frequently cultural, as opposed to economic development. Although, the cultural focus is undoubtedly important it only represents a portion of the value of creative enterprises.
Two noteworthy initiatives I found came out of Los Angeles and Philadelphia. The first, in Los Angeles, is the 2011 Otis Report on the Creative Economy of the Los Angeles Region, undertaking “to champion an under-recognized economic driver of the region by putting real numbers to creativity.” The report supplies hard data on sales/revenue as well as direct and indirect employment figures and tax revenue supporting the economic value of creative industry for the region. You can view report highlights on their website or download a PDF of the full report here. The second, is Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy website Creative Philadelphia and their report Creative Vitality in Philadelphia which “sets out to both define and further understand the creative sector as a whole, …” and “… focus on products—the production and consumption of creative products—and people—the creative workforce.” The site serves as a hub for creative discourse as related to policy, news and profiles. Initiatives like these prompt policy makers, businesses and the general public to view creative industry, and by extension the workforce that supports it seriously. Hopefully, other cities and states will follow.