Nevada County’s arts and culture scene generates $46.9 million in economic activity, supports 869 jobs, new study shows

Nevada County’s nonprofit arts and culture sector generates $46.9 million in economic activity and supports 869 full-time equivalent jobs, making it a powerful economic engine, according to a new report titled “Arts & Economic Prosperity 5.”

Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are businesses in their own right, the study said. They spent $25.7 million during fiscal year 2018 to employ people locally, purchase goods and services from local establishments, and attract tourists. 

They also leveraged $21.2 million in additional spending by cultural audiences — “spending that pumps vital revenue into restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages and other local businesses,” the report said. The activity generates $5.1 million in local and state government revenue.

“This economic study sends a strong signal that when we support the arts, we not only enhance our quality of life, but we also invest in Nevada County’s economic well-being,” according to the report, released on Thursday night to a full house at the Eric Rood Center in Nevada City.

Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy for Americans for the Arts in Washington D.C., presented the findings.

Added Jon Blinder, president of the Nevada County Arts Council: “We hope that our survey will be acknowledged as a foundational building block toward the creation of a countywide cultural plan. It recognizes that Nevada County is unique in California as the only rural county home to two state-designated California Cultural Districts — Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District and Truckee Cultural District and that our creativity extends beyond these districts to every corner of our county.”

Blinder continued: “We hope this valuable data will assist local leaders across all sectors in making decisions that will affect future generations, our quality of life, the livability of our region, and the likelihood of investment in it in the years to come.”

Most comprehensive study of its kind

The Nevada County arts and culture survey was coordinated with Americans for the Arts, the nation’s nonprofit group for advancing the arts in America. It is the most comprehensive study of its kind. “We were required to survey only 800 audience members — but we reached well over 1,000,” said Eliza Tudor, executive director of the Nevada County Arts Council. 

Nationally, the nonprofit arts industry generated $166.3 billion of economic activity in 2015 — $63.8 billion in spending by arts and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state and federal governments.

All told, the study documented the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in 341 communities and regions (113 cities, 115 counties, 81 multi-city or multi-county regions, 20 states, and 12 individual arts districts) representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The total economic activity, jobs, household income, local government revenue and state government revenue figures from Nevada County’s arts and culture sector are well above the median of similar study regions (population 50,000 to 99,999) — showing its economic clout.

The study also found that during 2018, a total of 5,314 volunteers donated a total of 141,737 hours to Nevada County’s participating nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. This represents a donation of time with an estimated aggregate value of $4.1 million.

Volunteers can include unpaid professional staff, artistic volunteers, clerical volunteers, and service volunteers. The 103 participating groups reported an average of 51.6 volunteers who volunteered an average of 26.7 hours during 2018, for a total of 1,376 hours per organization.

The 103 participating nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Nevada County also reported they received in-kind contributions with an aggregate value of $4.9 million during the fiscal year 2018.

Nonresident attendees spent an average of 146 percent more per person than local attendees ($68.65 vs. $27.87) as a result of their attendance to cultural events. “As would be expected from a traveler, higher spending was typically found in the categories of lodging, meals, and transportation,” the report said, adding “When a community attracts cultural tourists, it harnesses significant economic rewards.”

Arts drive tourism

The 1,138 audience survey respondents were asked to provide the zip code of their primary residence, enabling researchers to determine which attendees were local residents and which were nonresidents.

In Nevada County, researchers estimate that 69.2 percent of the 524,154 nonprofit arts attendees were residents; 30.8 percent were nonresidents.

Nonprofit arts and culture event attendees spend an average of $40.44 per person in Nevada County excluding the cost of event admission. 

The arts are driving tourism: 76.4 percent of nonresidents surveyed said the primary purpose of their visit to Nevada County was “specifically to attend this arts-cultural event.” Of the 30.8 percent of arts attendees who are nonresidents, 21.1 percent reported an overnight lodging expense.

The arts also are retaining local dollars: 41.9 percent of resident attendees said they would have “traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event.”

“This report reveals the incredible economic impact of the arts for us, as well as the power of working together as one invested community,” said Nevada City Council Member Duane Strawser. Added Grass Valley Council Member Howard Levine: “A community that has a vital artistic environment attracts a greater variety of people who are economically, mentally, and spiritually engaged.”

Truckee Town Manager Jeff Loux agreed: “As Truckee’s creative sector grows, our town is beginning to feel the promise of profound economic impacts. We look forward to working closely with our neighboring cities in western Nevada County to continue to support arts and culture.”

The study concluded: “Communities that support the arts and culture are investing in an industry that supports jobs, generates government revenue and is the cornerstone of tourism.”

Afterward, local leaders, arts groups and other attendees gathered in the lobby of the Rood Center for “A Toast to the Arts,” with wine that was donated by Nevada City Winery.

(Photos: John Taber and Alan Sheckter)

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