Artown: Economic impact continues rebound from 2009's low

Artown's economic splash continued to grow larger last year after a sharp decline at the onset of the recession.

The nonprofit that runs the month-long festival of the arts estimates in a new report that it generated $13.2 million in economic impact last July.

That marks a 4 percent increase from the impact of the 2010 festival but a striking 24.5 jump from the estimated impact of $10.6 million in 2009, when the recession was biting hard.

At its high point during the boom year of 2007, Artown generated an estimated impact of $16 million.

The estimates are based only on direct spending by Artown audiences, says Beth McMillen, its executive director. The nonprofit doesn't apply a multiplier to account for the effects of dollars spent at the festival as they move through the local economy.

Among the biggest economic impacts:

* An estimated expenditure of $4.8 million on food and beverages.

* Another expenditure of $1.9 million on hotel accommodations. (About 15 percent of the Artown audience of 300,000 comes from out of town, and about a quarter of those out-of-towners stay in hotels.)

* Estimated expenditures of $1.4 million on shopping and gifts.

Among the other expenditures tracked by Artown are admissions to art museums, special events and entertainment and spending on gaming, sightseeing and other recreational activities.

The estimates are based on surveys of 417 people who attended Artown events.

The survey overseen by the Nevada Small Business Development Center at the University of Nevada, Reno, found that audiences tend to be well-educated, work in white-collar jobs and make a good living.

Seventy-one percent of the Artown patrons who were surveyed have at least some college education 20 percent have post-graduate degrees and 20 percent work in executive or professional positions. Another 17 percent are retirees.

Some 20 percent of the people surveyed report family incomes greater than $100,000 a year. (The median household income in Reno is just a hair under $50,000, says the Census Bureau.)

McMillen said the resurgent economic impact of Artown reflects the way that residents and visitors have taken the festival to heart. And she says individual contributions to the event continue to rise.

"The community has taken ownership," she says. "This is a huge endorsement."

Business sponsorships, meanwhile, have remained strong despite the downturn, McMillen says.

That, she says, may reflect the growing awareness of business executives that the creativity and innovative thinking that they crave to meet business challenges arise from the same roots as fine arts.

They figure that the creative spirit of Artown will spill into the business realm as well.

Other companies develop relationships with Artown because they recognize that quality of life is an important part of the economic mix in northern Nevada, she says.


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