We need the arts

By: By Placer County Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt Special to The News Messenger
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I left the recent Placer County Economic Development Summit more convinced than ever that the arts are vital to our area’s economic prosperity.

Most of us agree that the arts enrich our lives but we seldom think of the contributions they make to our economy.

This year’s summit breakfast was a great opportunity to take a fresh looks at the arts and reflect on their importance to economic development. The theme was “Arts, Culture and Economic Prosperity in Placer County.”

The summit also was a chance to recognize PlacerArts, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. It has done a remarkable job promoting the arts, making them an integral part of our lives and communities, and encouraging us to think about how vital the arts are to our economic well-being.

The summit is sponsored each year by the Placer County Economic Development Board and organized by the Placer County Office of Economic Development. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery and I represent the Board of Supervisors on the Placer County Economic Development Board.

At this year’s summit, a speech by Vice President Randy Cohen of Americans for the Arts was particularly enlightening.

He used a host of facts and figures to support his primary message: the arts are an important industry that generates lots of jobs, promotes tourism and makes other major contributions to economic prosperity.

He told more than 200 attendees at the March 27 summit breakfast that the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates more than $135 billion in economic activity nationwide each year, supports more than 4.1 million jobs and generates more than $22 billion in revenue for the federal, state and local governments annually.

Formed in 1960, Americans for the Arts is the nation’s leading nonprofit advocacy organization for the arts.

Americans for the Arts estimates that Placer County was home to 1,203 arts-related businesses that employed almost 3,000 people last year. Included in the totals are art-related businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies and theaters to for-profit film, architecture and advertising companies.

Statistics, of course, do not tell the whole story. The arts are a vital contributor to Placer County’s high quality of life and it is our quality of life that is a primary drawing card for many of the businesses that decide to locate here.

County Executive Officer David Boesch spoke during the conference, pointing to another reason the arts are so important: in today’s knowledge-based economy, many young workers make up their minds on where to live first and decide how to make a living later. Often, quality-of-life issues figure heavily in their decisions.

At the summit, I introduced a speaker who offered a firsthand glimpse into the importance of the arts: Doug Stanley, chief executive officer and executive producer of Auburn-based Ridgeline Entertainment LLC.

An acclaimed producer and director of photography who won Primetime Emmy Awards in 2008 and 2011, Stanley is positioning his company to be a leader in the convergence of traditional and social media. It combines mainstream television production experience with innovative use of interactive social media to bring reality programming and live events to television and web platforms worldwide.

The new technologies make it easier, faster and less expensive to create and distribute programming, freeing companies of the need to locate in traditional media centers such as Hollywood.

One of Doug’s comments was music to all of our ears: he is convinced that arts-industry businesses such as Ridgeline will find lots of opportunities in Placer County in the future.


Robert Weygandt is Placer County's District 2 supervisor, which covers Lincoln.