Emphasizing the Cultural Economy - A Valid Economic Strategy?

It has been several years now that culture has been promoted as a strategy for economic development - but where is the proof? Does cultural development result in actual job creation? Is it a valid economic development strategy?

These are the questions the Ontario Ministry of Culture commissioned McSweeney & Associates to answer in a soon to be released report, using Prince Edward County as a case study. The report provides the most decisive and comprehensive proof to date that cultural development does result in real economic growth.

In Prince Edward County (PEC) cultural development is an embedded pillar of the economic development strategy. The cultural plan identified the need to manage growth in order to protect the underlying quality of place, the need to extend places where culture happens, and the importance of building cultural tourism.

The case study offers the following facts:
  • Between 2001 and 2008:
  • The unemployment rate in PEC decreased while it increased in Ontario
  • The employment rate increased in PEC while it declined in Ontario
  • The rate of job creation (9.4%) in PEC was higher than in Ontario (6%)
  • The annual value of issued commercial building permits climbed from $0.8 M to $7.0 M in five years
  • 36% of the jobs created in PEC in a five year period were in culture, compared to only 4.6% in Ontario, and 11% nationally
  • The 230 PEC jobs created between 2001 and 2006 in culture represents an increase of 96% in cultural employment, compared to an increase in cultural employment in Ontario of only 4%
  • Tourism and cultural are intrinsically linked in PEC: person visits to PEC increased 93% in 6 years, while Ontario visits declined 4.6% in the same period
  • PEC Tourism employment grew 13.5% in a five year period while declining 11.7% in Ontario over the same period.
Combined with the other evidence in the case study of the impact of cultural development, it is now conclusive: the development of the local cultural sector (including building quality of life and place, tourism attractions and creative industries) can be a highly effective economic development strategy. It is also evident thatmunicipal cultural planning and economic development efforts have accelerated the transformation of the Prince Edward County economy into a more creative rural economy.

Thus, municipal cultural planning can definitely be considered a critical process in strengthening and leveraging local community assets in order to enhance and develop new opportunities for local economic development, while also being a critical component of an integrated, holistic and sustainable approach to community planning and economic development.

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