Economic development through cultural industries

This month I’d like to turn your attention to cultural initiatives - another way a segment of our community contributes to our economy.

In recent months, I’ve been talking about the contributions made to economic development in Summerland via different types of initiatives.  Sometimes these initiatives feel familiar in the context of the economy.  These include ideas such as shopping local, something we can all do, and how the availability of industrial land such as the new Bentley Road Industrial Park makes it possible for businesses to expand and move to Summerland.  Last month I wrote about the economic benefits that can come to a community through less traditional avenues, such as the Okanagan Lake Multi-Use Pathway Project and other recreation initiatives.

This month I’d like to turn your attention to cultural initiatives – another way a segment of our community contributes to our economy.  Cultural industries include performing arts, visual arts and heritage institutions, writing and published works, film and video production, broadcasting, advertising and creative design, and interactive digital media.  Each of these industries is represented in Summerland, some more visibly than others.

While we don’t have specific numbers for Summerland, a UBC study completed in 2010 indicated that in the city of Kelowna the creative sector represented 1157 direct and indirect jobs and 121.5 million dollars in economic output.   A recent UNESCO study also states that cultural industries are becoming important components of today’s economy, propelling innovation and development.

We know the obvious – that diversity in cultural products such as festivals and events contributes to growth in tourism.  However there’s more.  Cultural industries and products contribute to people moving here.  The more creativity and culture a community offers, the greater the incentive for people with similar interests and values to live and work here, and hopefully to also start businesses that will employ others.

Here in Summerland, some of the more visible aspects of local history and culture kick off their seasons this month.  The KVSR opens for the regular season and will welcome more than 20,000 riders, many of whom will spend additional dollars in our community.

Other activities showcasing our community include the Summerland Studio Tour featuring 15 local studios.  The town banners will also be hung this month.  This unique display of over 100 hand painted banners is a delight to the eye and a wonderful demonstration of public art.

Beginning today, the Rotary Goodwill Shakespeare Festival kicks off its 13th year in Summerland.  We estimate that these talented young visitors will inject approximately $50,000 in our Main Street economy over their 3 day visit.   Their theme this year:  “Who hath the story for your ear”?

When it comes to reviving our local economy, we can listen to and recognize the value of many different stories, all with an important contribution to make.

We always appreciate your feedback.  Please contact me at  manager@summerlandchamber.com or our Chamber President, Arlene Fenrich, at  president@summerlandchamber.com.

Christine Petkau is the manager of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce.