On Tuesday night, Montgomery County’s arts and humanities community came together to meet and greet County Councilmembers at the Advocacy Potluck and to support our three speakers at the public hearing. The public hearing had an an incredible turnout (more than we had ever seen before!), so if you weren’t able to grab a seat, we’ll be posting the testimonies here.
Our first speaker was our very own Suzan Jenkins, CEO of AHCMC. Here’s the written testimony she submitted:
Good Evening. I am Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and a twenty-two year resident of Rockville. I begin my testimony this evening by simply saying Thank You.
Thank You for your past support for funding the arts and humanities in previous Montgomery County Operating Budgets.
Thanks for considering support of the FY12 budget recommendation which includes a 15% decrease in funding for arts and humanities grants.
Given the severe financial climate in the County and the nation, we appreciate that all areas of the budget are under close scrutiny. We understand that by making tough choices in this budget year, County Council is paving the way for a more secure and prosperous future. And in a severe recession, perhaps government is even asking why the arts and humanities should receive funding when there are so many other pressing needs? Well, the answer is simple. The arts and humanities are a good public sector investment.
Here are six reasons why:
#1. JOBS! Over 2800 jobs in Montgomery County that can never be outsourced. The arts and humanities sector puts people to work. Not just artists and scholars, but electricians, marketers, technicians, teachers, designers, carpenters, parking staff, caterers and workers in a wide variety of other trades and professions. Like other industries, the staff we employ pay mortgages, local taxes, and purchase goods and services right here in Montgomery County.
#2. The arts and humanities sector is a magnet for business. The Montgomery County Department of Economic Development’s web page notes that “…with our world-class conference and performing arts venues …it’s easy to see why Montgomery County, Maryland is “The SMARTBusiness Location.” Our sector attracts companies that want to offer their employees and clients a creative climate and an attractive community with high amenity value.
#3. The creative sector attracts a highly-skilled and desirable workforce. Companies’ decisions about where to locate their businesses often are influenced by factors such as the ready availability of a creative workforce and the quality of life available to employees. Certainly the County’s burgeoning biotech industry is looking for that creative workforce to give their business that competitive edge. The most desirable high-wage jobs require employees with creativity and higher order problem solving and communications skills.
#4. The creative sector increases a community’s prosperity as well as its quality of life. The arts: make neighborhoods attractive places to live, work and play; help to develop, redevelop and revitalize blighted areas and strengthen both commercial and residential housing markets. This is evidenced in our three Arts & Entertainment Districts – Bethesda, Silver Spring and soon, Wheaton. The creative sector fuels the tax base, the economy and enhances property values.
#5. Return on Investment. Right now, today, the arts and humanities industry is pumping over $52 million annually back into our economy through direct expenditures on everything from paper clips and cans of paint to employee compensation ($29.7 Million), to contracts for services and supplies uniquely spent by this sector. For every dollar the County gives AHCMC in grants, arts and humanities organizations match it with an additional $14.26 in city/state/federal/ donated and contributed income.
#6. We innovate. We leverage significant private and public investments to deepen our impact. The Nonprofit Energy Alliance, a partnership with Nonprofit Montgomery, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, the Nonprofit Roundtable, and the Department of Environmental Protection saves its 26 participating organizations annually about $250,000 in fixed utility expenses, allowing organizations to reduce expenditures on electricity and free up resources for their core missions while significantly reducing their carbon footprint.
There’s no doubt about it, Montgomery County’s arts and cultural resources are an economic asset. The creative sector provides jobs, attracts investments, and stimulates local economies through tourism, consumer purchases, and tax revenue. Perhaps even more significantly, the creative sector prepares workers to participate in the contemporary labor force, create communities with high appeal to residents, businesses, and tourists, and contribute to the economic success of other sectors.
I urge you tonight to continue to recognize the arts and humanities in Montgomery County as your partner in economic recovery and thank you for your continued support.