Study charts arts economic impact in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – A new arts economic impact study has been released with the City of Nanaimo's new cultural plan.

The arts and culture scene is thriving in the Nanaimo region, generating more than $150 million in economic activity, a new report reveals.

The Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation presented the results of its first-ever arts and culture economic impact study Friday. It was jointly released with a draft of the city’s new cultural plan.

According to the $19,000 report by Roslyn Kunin and Associates, the arts and culture sector has a “large economic footprint,” supporting 1,330 jobs in Nanaimo region and generating $154.5 million in economic activity.

Jobs in information, culture and recreation are also on the rise, with a 40-per cent increase in employment in 1995 and 2012. General employment only rose by 20 per cent.

Sasha Angus, chief executive officer of Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, said the report shows the size and prevalence of arts and culture is significant, with “literally thousands of jobs that depend on the sector.”

The information is the economic corporation’s first concrete proof on the state of arts and culture and it’s anticipated to not only give Nanaimo a benchmark to grow the sector, but also better position the city to woo new business and creative professionals.

“In the years to come … having arts and culture is going to be even more important because we are going to be having a real global race for talent,” Angus said. “Communities that showcase great quality of opportunity [and] great quality of life are going to be the ones that are successful.”

The new study is anticipated to be a big asset in marketing the city as a place to establish new business, but researchers point to Nanaimo’s cultural plan as being a powerful tool to keep the momentum going. It lays out new strategies to promote growth in arts and culture and attract creative professionals, who have the choice to move anywhere.

The plan recognizes that if the city can attract talent through quality of life and place, then innovative and technical industries will follow and help drive economic growth.

Tactics to improve on the city’s offerings include shared workspaces to  new tax incentives for cultural businesses in the downtown core. The cultural document also explores strategies to bolster creative and culinary tourism and cultural spaces. A new creative city commission is recommended to implement the plan, which will roll out projects annually.

Nanaimo’s new draft cultural plan will be shown to Nanaimo city council Nov. 18 and the public will have a chance to give feedback during an open house Nov. 28.