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The Arts Mean Business in Iowa

Posted by Stacy Lasner
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On Wednesday, August 12, the Des Moines Register published an op-ed by entrepreneur John Pappajohn titled "The Arts Mean Business in Iowa."


“Ask an outsider what they know about Iowa, and they may say one of three things, CORN ...HOGS ... and FARMLAND.” But, “what may come as a surprise is that in Iowa, the arts serve as an economic driver that attracts companies, creates jobs and grows local and state revenue. Without a doubt, the arts mean business in Iowa,” Pappajohn says.


As Chairman of Equity Dynamics Inc. and owner of Pappajohn Capital Resources in Des Moines, and as a member of Americans for the Arts’ BCA Executive Board, Pappajohn has witnessed first-hand how the arts has helped recruit and retain businesses and talented employees in Iowa. For example, according to a recent Americans for the Arts study:

 

  • Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences within Iowa’s Cultural Corridor of 11 counties alone generate $80 million annually and support more than 2,500 full-time equivalent jobs.

 

  • These jobs and related audience expenditures return $3.3 million in local tax revenue and an additional $4.1 million in state tax revenue.

 

  • There are 5,834 creative industry businesses in Iowa — which include everything from art museums to graphic art studios — with more than 22,000 employees.


Pappajohn mentions two Des Moines-based corporations that have directly profited from partnering with the arts–The Principal Financial Group, whose art-filled campus helps recruit and retain employees, and EMC Insurance Companies, who runs a visual arts competition for current and former Iowa residents. You can read more about how by partnering with the arts, these companies were able to recruit and retain talent in Iowa in the first essay in our pARTnership Movement Essay series, "Recruit and Retain Talent."

 

Thanks to the arts, Des Moines’ population is growing, unemployment rates are falling, and the number of young people engaged in civic life is increasing. A strong arts scene and a culturally vibrant community is a significant economic driver that shouldn’t be overlooked by businesses or its elected leaders.


Americans for the Arts will reinforce these messages this week at Des Moines’ Iowa Arts Advocacy Caucus. The statewide training event will educate arts advocates and messengers at the Iowa Presidential Caucuses, as well as invite presidential candidates to speak on their arts policy position. More information is here, as well as a press release on the caucus here. Twitter users can follow the event via #ArtsVote2016.

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