Nonprofit arts generate $330 million annually for Seattle's economy

The results of a recent comprehensive study show local nonprofit arts organizations generate $330 million in economic activity every year in Seattle, resulting in $26.7 million in local and state tax revenues.

The report, Arts & Economic Prosperity III, is part of a national survey conducted by Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit group. It was funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The $330 million total includes $211 million in spending by arts organizations and nearly $119 million in event-related spending by arts audiences.

"These results underscore the importance of the arts to the cultural and economic health of Seattle," said Dorothy Mann, chair of the Seattle Arts Commission.

To estimate the impact of your nonprofit arts and culture organization, visit Americans for the Arts' Web site, where you can enter data for your organization into a calculator.

The report measures economic impact as defined by the number of full-time jobs supported, household income paid locally, and local and state government revenue generated because of spending by nonprofit arts organizations and event-related spending by their audiences. The total economic activity has a significant local impact, generating:

  • 7,992 full-time equivalent jobs
  • $177.8 million in resident household income
  • $12.3 million in local government tax revenues
  • $14.4 million in state government tax revenues

"We know that great art is an important part of creating a great city," Mayor Greg Nickels said. "Our investment returns much more than dollars. Art engages people, creates community, fosters creativity and it improves our quality of life."

The study is the first to put Seattle in a national comparative context. Seattle stacked up well compared to other cultural centers in the country: Austin, Texas ($271.7 million); Nashville, Tenn. ($198.5 million); Atlanta, Ga. ($274.8 million); Minneapolis, Minn. ($328 million); Baltimore, Md. ($270 million) and Santa Clara County, including San Jose, Calif. ($166.5 million).

Closer to home, the tri-county Portland area recorded $318.3 million in economic activity. Tacoma came in at $36.8 million; Boise, Idaho at $38 million; and Anchorage, Alaska at $45 million. While Seattle's nonprofit arts industry is robust, there is room to make greater investments. Seattle finished behind larger cities, including San Francisco, Calif. ($1 billion); Miami, Fla. ($574 million) and Chicago, Ill. ($1.1 billion).

The Seattle findings made headlines with news articles in the Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer followed by a P-I editorial and a Times editorial.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation awarded a $75,000 grant to Americans for the Arts in February 2006 to support the development of the national economic impact study. The grant funded research in seven Pacific Northwest communities to measure how the arts industry influences local and state economies.

"This study helps to demonstrate the significant economic importance of the arts. It is an effective tool to help increase public and private funding to the arts nonprofit sector, develop favorable public policies, and ultimately, increase the cultural opportunities for the people in our region," said Sue Coliton, senior director of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

"This study is a myth buster," said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. "Most Americans understand that the arts improve our quality of life. This study demonstrates that the arts are an industry that stimulates the economy in cities and towns across the country. A vibrant arts and culture industry helps local businesses thrive."

The full text of the Seattle report is available here.

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