Arts and Culture Major Players in Attracting Businesses

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Arts Services Initiative of Western New York (ASI) announced the release of the “Economic Impact of Western New York’s Not-for-Profit Cultural Industry” report. The findings of the report conclude that 105 not-for-profit cultural organizations in Erie Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties contribute an estimated $87 million to local GDP, while their audiences provide an estimated $70.2 million in revenue to the WNY economy. This spending supports a total of 2,900 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $4.3 million in government revenue through sales and income taxes.

The full report is available at

“The practice of economic development has changed considerably in the past decade from one based solely on sites and incentives to one that also encompasses the development of human capital; that is, those sets of skills, knowledge, and creativity contributed by its residents,” Amherst Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Allen said. “Retaining and attracting those individuals that possess these attributes is paramount to developing a successful economic development strategy. Integrating a flourishing arts and cultural sector can affect where workers in the ‘knowledge economy’ want to live and as such is essential for workforce recruitment and retention strategies. It is not merely coincidental that the growth of our arts and cultural community is part of our region’s most recent renaissance; great things are happening here and innovators and entrepreneurs want to be a part of it!”

ASI commissioned Center for Governmental Research (CGR) of Rochester to calculate the effect the cultural sector has on the local economy, thanks to a grant from The New York Community Trust. The Niagara University Center for Events & Management Development collected the audience data, while the Cultural Data Project was used for organizational data. CGR used the latest year data available for each organization ranging from 2009 to 2013. Audience data was collected in 2013.

“We’re not accustomed to thinking about arts and culture as making an independent contribution to the economy — but they do, as demonstrated here,” Center for Governmental Research Project Director Kent Gardner, Ph.D. added. “And in a footloose business climate, arts and culture also play a very important indirect role in economic development, both as ‘glue’ for firms thinking of relocating and as a ‘magnet’ for firms looking for a community, not just a business location.”

“This report, done by an independent outside agency, clearly demonstrates that the arts provide a great return on investment for the region,” ASI Executive Director Tod A. Kniazuk concluded. “That said, it’s important to note that the cultural sector also has an impact on tourism, education, national and international recognition for the area, business and employee attraction, service to the community, and more. No other sector offers these multiple impacts, and perhaps most importantly serves to inspire those who enjoy it while reflecting the culture of the people and places of our region; that’s the true impact of arts and culture.”