Metro Denver’s culture packs a $1.8 billion economic punch

Nearly 14 million people attended cultural events in metro Denver in 2015 and their attendance, coupled with operations and capital spending within the cultural industry, packed a $1.8 billion economic punch.

“It reinforces that the arts and culture are a huge economic driver,” said Deborah Jordy, executive director of the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA).

The CBCA on Wednesday released its biennial Economic Activity Study.

It showed that the region’s total economic activity surrounding culture last year – including operations, audience spending and capital spending – was down 1.6 percent from 2013, when it totaled more than $2 billion.

The dip can be attributed to a slowdown in capital spending within the cultural and arts industry from 2013 to 2105, the report says.

But the action was in jobs, said Jordy:

  • The number of people employed in the cultural industry locally in 2015 was up 5 percent from 2013 to 10,731.
  • Total payroll was $165.2 million, up 9.6 percent from 2013.
  • And seat, sales and payroll tax revenue were up 7 percent to $19.8 million.

“It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs,” Jordy said.

In 2015, the number of people employed in the arts reached pre-Great Recession levels and outpaced total employment growth in the metro area, according to the report.

“For me, what is interesting is that the arts are not just providing jobs to actors or zoo keepers. It’s also accountants and marketing people and people in all fields,” Jordy said. “This is a highly educated field that has many advanced degrees. … The payroll numbers are up; we are paying good wages to arts workers.”

Every two years, the CBCA conducts the economic impact study to show how the arts are an economic driver, Jordy said.

The report takes data from all nonprofit organizations that receive money through the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District in a seven-count region, which was $53.2 million in 2015.

There also was $25.6 million in individual contributions; $11.4 million in corporate sponsors; $15.6 million in in-kind donations; $33.3 million from foundations; $23.6 million from government; and $13.6 million from other sources.

In 2015, 13.9 million people attending cultural events in metro Denver, according to the report.

Tourists who visited cultural organizations added $367 million to the economy. About 18 percent of all attendance was visitors from outside the metro area.

“The arts truly attract people to our region,” Jordy said.

-Monica Mendoza, Denver Business Journal

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