Why This Matters: The Charlotte-region’s nonprofit arts industry generates $359 million in annual economic impact and returns $31.5 million in revenue to local and state coffers.
By Bernie Petit
If you want to get a taste for what the arts mean to Charlotte’s economy, walk into an uptown restaurant before the start of a show at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts.
You’ll see tables filled with enthusiastic patrons, many of whom have traveled from out of town for the experience.
“There’s excitement,” said Tom Sasser, one of the founders and owners of Center City Charlotte hotspot Mimosa Grill. “They all come at once, they all eat at once and they all leave at once.”
Sasser said his restaurant is one of the many businesses that benefit from the high-quality cultural venues found in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
The numbers support his claim. Arts and culture generate more than $242 million in annual economic impact in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, according to Americans for the Arts. The nonprofit advocacy group recently completed its fourth Arts & Economy Prosperity study, which measures the national impact of the arts.
The annual economic impact of arts and culture in the Center City is $216 million. For the greater Charlotte region, the impact is a staggering $359 million.
The region’s nonprofit arts industry generates $31.5 million in local and state government revenues according to the report, funded by ASC and Charlotte Regional Partnership. Additionally, nearly 58,000 people in the 16-county region are employed in for-profit or nonprofit jobs that the U.S. Department of Labor classifies as creative, such as photographers, designers, librarians and writers.
The demand of local audiences contributes greatly to those figures. Mecklenburg County residents make up more than 66-percent of the nearly 3.6 million people that participate in cultural activities throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg.
Nonlocal audiences pack quite a punch when it comes to cultural event-related spending. Visitors spend $49.2 million annually when attending Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural events, often paying for parking, buying gifts and souvenirs and – music to Sasser’s ears – eating at local restaurants.
“Our managers at Mimosa have calendars from all of the different venues of what’s happening when so they’re ready for customers before a big event,” he said. “The arts are such a big part of what Charlotte is and why people want to come here.”
The numbers bear that out, too. Fifty-six-percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents who attended local cultural events said they would have traveled to a different community to attend a similar event. A whopping 84-percent of nonlocal event attendees said they would have traveled elsewhere for a similar experience.
“Charlotte’s arts and culture sector is an essential component of what makes our community so attractive to visitors and new residents,” said Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO Tom Murray. “We’re fortunate to lay claim to incredible performing arts organizations that encompass every medium as well as museums and historic sites that reflect the region’s heritage and showcase the world’s treasures.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg nonprofit cultural sector also generates $21.6 million in local and state revenues. Those figures prove the value of the arts in not only enriching the lives of visitors and residents, but in stimulating and sustaining local and regional economic development.