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Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Culture Industry a Strong Contributor to Springfield Economy, Study Finds

Randy Stewart
Left to right: Springfield Regional Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Forrester; Springfield Mayor Ken McClure; Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Tracy Kimberlin; Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Morrow.

The Springfield Regional Arts Council held a press conference Wednesday morning to announce the findings of a yearlong survey that documents the economic impact of the non-profit arts and culture industry in the Springfield area. The "Arts and Economic Prosperity Study" was conducted by Americans for the Arts, and surveyed 341 communities and regions throughout the country.  And both the Springfield Regional Arts Council and local civic leaders seem very pleased with the survey results, which help confirm--with hard data--the longtime anecdotal evidence that the arts and culture impact lives and support local businesses. Leslie Forrester, Executive Director of the Arts Council, calls it "the largest-ever stuy of its kind in Missouri." 

The local results were gathered from twenty-four local arts and culture organizations, and nearly 800 local audience members, both local residents and visiting tourists. Using an "input-output" economic analysis model, the study economists traced how many times a dollar was re-spent within the local economy before it left the community.  According to Leslie Forrester, "the resulting data is better than we could have ever imagined.  The total economic impact of the arts and culture sector in Springfield is $26.9 million."  $17 million of that total was spent by the audiences, said Forrester. "The arts and culture sector supports 1,065 fulltime-equivalent jobs; paid $20.5 million in household income to residents; generated $1.3 million in local government revenue; and generated $1 million in state government revenue.  So the arts really do mean business in Springfield."

Springfield Mayor Ken McClure also commented at the press conference. "What Leslie has said is very good news, but it is not surprising news.  We are so blessed in Springfield to have a very strong arts community.  Volunteers are what makes our community function. And if you go to events, arts-related or otherwise, you will certainly encounter people who are volunteering their time.  And we were able to trace 1,678 volunteers that we know of, that work through arts-related events.  And that translates to over 98 thousand hours devoted.  So the arts are a very key ingredient, a very key partner."

Tracy Kimberlin, President and CEO of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, was also on hand to talk about the impact of the arts on local tourism. "This particular study," he said, "documents the fact that arts and culture help drive tourism.  Of the attendees in this survey from outside of Greene County, 84 percent said they visited Springfield specifically to attend that event."  And more than 50 percent of them would have gone elsewhere if that same event wasn't offered in Springfield. Nearly one-third of all the audience members surveyed were from outside Greene County.  And they spent about 28 percent more on event-related things like meals, lodging and transportation than was spent by local arts patrons. Added Kimberlin, "Not only are the cultural tourists adding to the crowds at the events, but they certainly add to the economy as well."

Matt Morrow, President of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said that a major factor in how communities like Springfield compete with other cities for jobs, economic growth and capital improvement is quality of life. "And an enormous part of that, of course, is access to arts and culture.  So one of the great things from an economic standpoint about arts and culture is that the spending that people do on arts and culture can stay in our community. People are going to spend their money on arts and cultural experiences, and we want them to spend it here, and we want them to have those experiences here--not just for the direct impact of those dollars re-circulating through our community, but for the more indirect impact that it has, in making Springfield a place where businesses want to locate, because they know the talent and workforce that they're going to be able to attract and retain is here in Springfield.

Find out more about the survey results at