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While arts, history and culture have always been of local importance in Cayuga County, the last decade or so have really shown how economically impactful the arts can be.

It is hard to dispute that the arts have been a significant part of what has widely been considered a renaissance in Auburn. This is evidenced by: the establishment and ongoing expansion of Auburn Public Theater; the vast extension of the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse programming with the creation of the Finger Lakes Musical Theater Festival and Merry-Go-Round Youth Theater; the current restoration of the Auburn Schine Theater; and regularly occurring installations of public art.

These projects have built upon an existing arts industry found throughout Cayuga County. Arts-based businesses and attractions can be found from Doc Gallery in Fair Haven to the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn to the Morgan Opera House in Aurora, just to name a few. We are lucky to have access to the visual and performing arts that abound in Cayuga County, but it is difficult to conceptualize the real, tangible impact they have on our economy. To explore this, the Cayuga Economic Development Agency will feature Randy Cohen, vice president of research & policy for Americans for the Arts, as the keynote speaker at our annual Economic Forecast Luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Auburn.

Americans for the Arts is a national advocacy organization for the arts, and Mr. Cohen has been with the organization for 27 years. He publishes The National Arts Index, an annual measure of the health and vitality of arts, as well as the two premier economic studies of the arts industry: Arts & Economic Prosperity, a national impact study of nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences; and Creative Industries, an annual mapping study of the nation’s 675,000 arts establishments and their employees. This experience and research has established Mr. Cohen as a recognized and acclaimed industry expert. His "10 Reasons to Support the Arts" blog recently received the Gold Award from the Association of Media & Publishing. He also collaborated with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in the late 1990s to create Coming Up Taller, the White House report on arts programs for at-risk youth, as well as with the U.S. Department of Justice to produce the YouthARTS Project, the first national study to statistically document the impact of arts programs on at-risk youth. A sought-after speaker, Mr. Cohen has given speeches in 49 states, and regularly appears in the news media — including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, C-SPAN, CNN, CNBC and NPR.

Randy has visited our area twice in recent years. The purpose of his first visit in 2009 was to speak to local government officials and the business community about how nonprofit arts organizations spur economic development. Mr. Cohen returned in 2012 to deliver the results of his organization’s Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study of arts and culture spending in 182 U.S. regions, which included Auburn.

In his keynote address on Jan. 24, Mr. Cohen will explain how art is a serious business making significant contributions to our local economy through job creation and bolstering tourism and quality of life. This year’s luncheon will provide a special opportunity for our local businesses to hear from an industry expert about how arts and cultural organizations contribute to our community and its economy. Guests will be welcome to ask questions as time allows.

The luncheon will also include a presentation by me, exploring local and regional economic trends. CEDA’s 2018 Annual Report highlighting projects and activities over the last year will also be distributed to guests at the luncheon.

Doors open at 11:30 a.m. There is a $40 event fee, which includes a buffet-style lunch. You may register online by following the link on our homepage, cayugaeda.org. This event is sponsored by the Hilton Garden Inn.

This luncheon will be an excellent way to kick-start the year with valuable insight into an important contributor to our local economy, as well as a chance to connect with fellow business leaders and elected officials in attendance.

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Tracy Verrier is the executive director of the Cayuga Economic Development Agency and Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce. For more information about the Cayuga Economic Development Agency, visit cayugaeda.org.

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