There’s economic power in Michigan’s creative industries

Michigan businesses depend on creativity and innovation. Michigan residents depend on vibrant business growth to fuel opportunities for work and higher income. Without creativity and innovation, the state will stagnate.

Was Henry Ford an artist? Did he use the power of imagination? Creativity? Human agency and technical skill? Was W.K. Kellogg an artist? In a narrow sense, they weren’t artists. They were creative industrialists who saw an unfulfilled need and found an innovative way to fill the need. Is Dan Gilbert an artist? Look at downtown Detroit and decide whether you see a new beauty unfolding.

Sticking with a more conventional understanding of business and the arts, it is surely true that Michigan must build on its creative legacy every year if it is to retain a competitive position in an ever more competitive world.

ArtServe Michigan offers a window into the state’s most intensely creative industries with its 2014 Creative State Michigan report released in January. Virtually every sector of the economy involves creativity, but ArtServe defined the collective impact of creative industries statewide and those generating most wages: architecture, design, advertising, publishing/printing and film/audiovisual/broadcasting. Please excuse the cumbersome labels – there don’t seem to be any poets at work at the job classification department!

What did they find? In the latest 2014 Creative State Michigan report the news is that this tightly grouped sector alone generates nearly $3.6 billion statewide in total wages.

$3.6 billion. Almost 75,000 Michigan workers. Almost 10,000 businesses.

That is great news and it is a small portion of the intense creativity to be found across Michigan businesses and organizations.

These figures don’t count all the design work that goes on inside Detroit’s auto industry or Grand Rapid’s office furniture industry. Neither of those two great sectors survives without creative skills, talent and systems where design is integral. The same can be said for many other great Michigan businesses.

Need more facts and figures? How about cultural destinations generating more than $2 billion of state tourism revenues? The economic reality and potential of our creative sector cannot be ignored.

Governor Snyder understands the importance creativity. He is recommending a $2 million increase for state arts funding for a total of $10.1 million in the 2015 state budget, his third consecutive recommendation for increased funding. It is an important signal and an important reality in supporting creativity in this state.

The creative sector must be in our mindset as we develop economic priorities and policies at state, regional and local levels to maximize growth in the creative industries – for profit and nonprofit. It is a key to accelerating momentum in our state’s economy.

Grand Rapids has embraced the power of the arts and creativity in cultivating its attraction as a vibrant place to live, work, invest and explore.

ArtPrize is one example, in 2013 attracting more than 380,400 visits to Grand Rapids, generating $22 million in economic spending and 253 jobs. According to the Anderson Economic Group’s recent study, ArtPrize has seen a 43 percent increase in its economic impacts in just two years.

GRid70, an innovation and design hub in downtown Grand Rapids, is bringing together creative talent from six major corporations – Meijer, Amway, Steelcase, Pennant Health, Wolverine World Wide, and Process Automation Concepts. Every day, these creative professionals design new products and concepts, and bring added vitality to a renewed urban center.

Both demonstrate how Grand Rapids is tapping its creative assets in growing the local economy and cultivating its attractiveness to talent and entrepreneurs.

So, if we recognize the creative industries as a powerful economic force, then a question arises. Are we doing all we can to train and cultivate our future talent?

Are we doing enough to equip students today to be the innovative leaders and talent for tomorrow? According to a report published by The Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, 72 percent of business leaders say creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring.

The arts in our schools face continued challenges statewide as programs compete for limited funding. We’re smartly focused on the critical STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and math. But are we missing strategic opportunities to engage the arts in creative skill building that boosts academic achievement overall and in these STEM subjects?

Creative individuals and businesses are essential for continued vitality for Michigan and its communities. Michigan’s economic development priorities and educational investments will yield higher returns if the critical importance of innovation and creativity remains central to our work together at the state level and in all our communities. Our success tomorrow, and in the years ahead depend on it.

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Charles Richards
Tue, 03/18/2014 - 1:21pm
I'm sorry, I don't find this persuasive. Those creative, innovative individuals who have transformed the world would have been just as creative and innovative if they had never stepped into an arts class. Creativity is a knack, a way of seeing things, not an acquired skill. It is true that "Creative individuals and businesses are essential for continued vitality for Michigan and its communities." but those individuals. particularly those in the sciences an business, are not produced by the arts community which has generally been dismissive of them. The authors say, " In the latest 2014 Creative State Michigan report the news is that this tightly grouped sector alone generates nearly $3.6 billion statewide in total wages." They did not say what percentage that is of total wages. And such studies are notoriously flexible. Senator Stabenow claimed that agricultural was the second largest industry in Michigan, but only by claiming that anyone remotely connected to food, such as waitresses and supermarket employees, were part of agriculture. Everyone has a tendency toward provincialism and to consider what they do as the center of the world. Shelley was mistaken except to the extent he regarded all great men as poets. Something the authors claim and then mistakenly imply that the arts made them great. Surely, the arts and art education are important. (I voted for the millage to support the DIA.) But are they as important, in the face of the increase of computer power, as giving people marketable skills?
Tue, 03/18/2014 - 2:48pm
Anybody is capable to be creative, at any time. Creativity can be encouraged or suppressed. Business must be creative to survive on a continuing basis. In an authoritarian organization like business or the the military, creativity emanated from the top and was suppressed at the bottom. In recent times both business and the military have recognized the importance of creativity in the lowest ranks of the military and the lowest ranks of business salaried and blue collar workers, and properly rewarding creativity.
Brian Hewitt
Sun, 03/23/2014 - 9:37am
Seems disingenuous to have a discussion about creativity without mentioning the correlation between cannabis use and creativity. Our state of Michigan has the potential to turn our economy around by producing and exporting cannabis and hemp products. Only thing needed is a few seeds, fertile soil, plenty of fresh water and ample sunlight. Michigan apples sell for about $4.00 per pound. Pure Michigan cannabis goes for about $4.000.00 per pound. You do the math… Also, if Ford or GM had the audacity to equip their entry level cars with interior seats made out of hemp - I'm pretty sure most everyone from the younger generation would buy these cars for this reason alone. Dear Governor Snyder, please tear down this wall that prevents us from producing and manufacturing this cash crop!
Marcia Moore
Mon, 03/24/2014 - 9:53am
As the head of a community college Humanities Division in Michigan, I struggle with where the arts fit when it comes to our state's economic growth. What pathways are available to Michigan students who are drawn to the creative disciplines? The faculty in my division would likely disagree with Charles' statement: "Creativity is a knack, a way of seeing things, not an acquired skill." At the community college, every humanities faculty could share story after story of individuals who entered a humanities class and realized the creative skills they never knew they had. Our struggle is helping these students who have found their creativity now try to figure out how to turn that into a marketable skill. This challenge for us is mirrored in the comment and question of the article: "So, if we recognize the creative industries as a powerful economic force, then a question arises. Are we doing all we can to train and cultivate our future talent?" What can we do at the community college level to "train and cultivate our future talent" in the humanities? A significant goal for us is to help educate students so they will want to stay in Michigan and become productive contributors to its economy. Any suggestions for us?