The arts as amenity : a factor in regional economic development?



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Arts and cultural activity may play an important role in regional economic development. But to what end and by what means? Traditional economic development theory identifies export expansion and import substitution as the means by which an industrial sector may add to a region’s economic base. Recorded and visual arts may produce exports in some regions, but live performing arts are incapable of exportation. Instead, they must generate tourism to capture extra-regional dollars. Contemporary research argues two additional means by which the arts may encourage growth. First, the presence of a great many artists and arts institutions may increase firm productivity and efficiency by reducing the cost of arts services, increasing the quality of and accessibility to arts services, and promoting innovation. Second, an abundance of arts and cultural activity may attract a highly skilled, competitive workforce, which then attracts firm relocation. This report presents original research designed to test this last hypothesis as applied to Austin, Texas. Results indicate that while the arts in Austin may not attract a competitive workforce, they do appear to have at least some significance in retaining creative professionals.