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Numbers Don’t Lie: The Arts Bring Economic Prosperity to Eugene

By Sophia Bennett

Eugene’s nonprofit arts community has an annual economic impact of $62 million and supports 2,400 jobs. Their investment provides $45.7 million in income for area residents and generates $3.9 million in tax revenue for local and state governments.

These findings are presented in the Arts and Economic Prosperity 5 study (AEP5), which measures the positive financial impact of nonprofit arts organizations on local communities. The study drew from data collected by 14,000 arts organizations and 212,000 individuals in 341 places across the country. Americans for the Arts, a national nonprofit that works to ensure all Americans have access to the arts, coordinates and publishes the study every five years.

AEP5 makes it clear that arts organizations provide more for our community than a creative outlet, and do more for local citizens than contribute to their quality of life. Thousands of people depend on the arts for at least a portion of their livelihood. Hundreds gain their annual income solely from arts organizations. Investing in this important commercial sector is essential if Eugene is going to continue to have a vibrant, diversified economy.

The Arts and Business Alliance of Eugene (ABAE) is proud to be a lead partner in coordinating the AEP5 data collection in Eugene. We worked with over 40 nonprofits to compile the information Americans for the Arts needed to complete the study. Other members of a local steering committee included Lane Arts Council, the City of Eugene and the University of Oregon.

Other study findings include:

  • Nationwide, nonprofit arts organizations were responsible for $166.3 billion in economic activity in 2015, the year the study was conducted. This spending supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in tax revenue for the federal, state and local governments (so governing bodies, which spend $5 billion on the arts annually, are getting a pretty good return on their investment).
  • The $62 million in arts spending in Eugene can be broken down into two categories. Nonprofits invested about $41 million in their operations, which supported 1,708 jobs. Much of that money went to employees, but some of it flowed to other businesses such as print shops, supply companies and event rental firms.
  • Audiences spent roughly $21 million on activities ancillary to their investment in the arts, which supported 656 jobs. What do we mean by that? People often go out to dinner or have drinks with friends before or after shows, which means they support local restaurants and bars. Out-of-town visitors rent hotel rooms and pay for transportation. Those who live in town pay for child care. The $21 million reflects spending with these non-arts businesses.
  • “Cultural tourists,” or people who travel to Eugene for arts events, contribute more money per performance to the economy than those who live locally. A person who travels from out of the area and pays for accommodations, all daily meals, souvenirs and other expenses spends $42.29 per event. A person who lives in the area spends $16.02. About 88 percent of patrons at arts events in Eugene were local residents, while about 12 percent came from outside the region.
  • People over the age of 65 made up the highest percentage of cultural tourists. After them, the highest percentage of non-residents attending arts events were between the ages of 18 and 34, and the highest percentage of residents were between 55 and 64.
  • Among residents, the highest percentage of people attending arts events said they had an income of less than $40,000 per year. Among non-residents, there’s a tie between people with incomes lower than $40,000 and higher than $120,000.
  • Eugene’s nonprofit arts groups utilized 3,255 volunteers who donated over 196,000 hours, a contribution valued at $4.6 million.
  • In-kind donations of supplies and other physical goods to Eugene arts organizations totaled $733,000 in 2015.

A full copy of the study is available here.

Over the next year, ABAE and its partners will educate community members and local leaders about the important role nonprofit arts and cultural organizations play in supporting the local economy. If you’d like a detailed briefing on this important study or want to learn more about how artists and businesses are working together to enhance our region, please contact ABAE managing director John Barry.