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Arts Proclaimed Big Business

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – A new study says that the arts are a major industry in the region worthy of government investment.

The national study took a look at the direct and so-called ripple effects of the arts on their local economies.

In the Greater Buffalo region that impact is said to be roughly $155 million every year.

Other ripples include upwards of five thousand jobs and about $15 million collected locally in annual tax revenues.

Mary Margaret Schoenfeld is Community Development Manager for Americans for the Arts, the not-for profit group that conducted the study. She said the data makes a solid case for public support of the arts.

And according to at least one local business leader, that's not all the arts bring in.

James Allen is Executive Director for the Amherst Industrial Development Agency and a member of the Niagara Erie Regional Coalition, the local advocacy group that commissioned the study.

Allen said businesses are looking for more than tax breaks when they choose where to locate. Allen said they want quality of life for their employees and the arts and culture are an important part of that.

Local arts leaders say they will go door- to-door using the new information to push for dedicated funding of the arts. That idea recently was proposed by the County Executive and has the support of some county lawmakers.

Legislature Chairwoman Lynn Marinelli is one of them. Marinelli said the arts should be among those at the top of the funding priority list.

Marinelli and others say the investments are also needed to increase cultural tourism. That is an area they herald as one of few possible growth industries.

According to the study, local arts events currently draw only about 13 percent of their audiences from outside the region.

The study did not examine why other regions attract more non-local patrons. Nor did the analysis address the issue of financial vulnerability among the arts during times of national or local economic downturn.

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