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North Carolina nonprofit arts groups generate $723 million impact, 7,000 jobs, study says.

[05.11.04] — The arts are big business in North Carolina, with nonprofit arts groups fueling a $723 million annual impact on the state’s economy and generating 7,000 jobs, a new study says.

While most arts groups are small organizations with modest budgets, the study says, the state’s 100 counties, on average, are home to 19 nonprofit arts groups with a powerful combined economic impact.

Arts groups also have reduced operating expenses while increasing participation, says the study, says the study, commissioned by the North Carolina Arts Council and conducted by two business professors at Appalachian State University in Boone.

More than one million North Carolinians, or nearly one in eight citizens, are active arts supporters, members or volunteers, the study says.

Leading nonprofit arts groups average 13 full-time jobs, a payroll that can double with part-time and seasonal workers, it says.

Full-time salaries generate an estimated $32 million in federal and state taxes.

And the average annual impact of $1 million from major arts organizations can “lead an economic chain reaction” in their communities,” the study says.

It says studies released in the past three years, for example, found the arts generated $26 million in Watauga County, $60 million in Buncombe County, $67 million in Wake County and $94 million in Mecklenburg County.

Nonprofit arts groups have a direct economic impact of nearly $395 million

Estimating that those dollars turn over in the economy at least 1.5 times, and adding the estimated value of volunteer time, the study says the overall impact of nonprofit arts groups on the state’s economy totals more than $723 million.

Attendance at arts events and programs grew 11 percent over four years, and volunteerism grew 13 percent, the study says, while cultural tourism, the fastest-growing segment of the tourism industry, grew 13 percent between 1996 and 2002.

“Arts can be a viable vehicle for economic development for many North Carolina counties,” the study says.

The arts can provide employment or part-time work for the state’s 85 rural counties, competitive wages or “quality jobs” in the state’s 15 urban counties, and encourage innovation, the study says.

“In a time of scarce economic development resources, policy makers must consider the opportunity costs of various arts projects and its ability to leverage additional income,” it says.

“It also makes economic sense for local city and county policy makers to fund arts groups that attract visitors and high spending tourists to an area, particularly as North Carolina continues to see growth in the travel industry, and particularly growth in the cultural segments of travel.”

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