For Matt Pivarnik, president and CEO of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, the most important part of any strategic plan is the results. So when the chamber and its community partners began crafting Momentum 2022, he opted for a five-year plan, as opposed to some of the longer-running strategic documents seen elsewhere.
“We chose a 60-month plan because we wanted to have an immediate and measurable impact,” said Pivarnik. “We didn’t call this Momentum 2035 or Momentum 2050 for a reason.”
In its early stages, the plan was guided by a 43-member steering committee that drew from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Among the committee’s findings was a need for enhanced talent development efforts to build out a stronger workforce for the region.
“We put a very heavy focus on development of homegrown talent in Momentum 2022,” said Kayla Bitler, strategic coordinator at the Greater Topeka Chamber. “Some areas of emphasis are ensuring that all children are ready for kindergarten, and that every student has a pathway to college or a career.”
A second leg of the campaign is enhancing “quality of place” in the Topeka region, by building out amenities like pedestrian walkways, expanding access to the city’s riverfront and adding more recreational and residential offerings to the city’s downtown core—a process Pivarnik says is already underway.
“We’re seeing a real resurgence in restaurants and bars,” he said, adding, “If you want a loft in downtown, you’ll have to get in line, because right now everyone wants a loft in downtown.”
The plan calls for the consolidation of the Greater Topeka Chamber and three other economic development groups — GO Topeka, Visit Topeka and Downtown Topeka Inc. — into one umbrella organization, which will be called Greater Topeka Partnership. The organizations will retain their boards and CEOs, and will coordinate through a council including the four CEOs, their chair-elects and several at-large members.
“Bringing together these four groups will enable all of us to perform our work with a type of coordination we haven’t seen in the past,” said Curtis Sneeden, the chamber’s executive vice president. “We’ll enjoy a number of operational efficiencies just by being together under one roof.”
Pivarnik says he brought the idea for the consolidation of the four groups with him from his previous role at the Greater Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, which operates under a similar structure.
“When I was at the Tulsa Chamber, which has 15-plus organizations and brands operating under one umbrella, I didn’t understand how powerful that structure really was until I had to operate without it,” he said. “Personally, I don’t think it’s efficient for cities to have all of these separate convention and visitors bureaus and downtown organizations.”
Pivarnik says he hopes that by 2022, people from around the world will think of Topeka as a city that has undergone a rapid transformation in a short period of time.
“When people hear about Topeka, Kansas, in the future, I want them to think of it as a ‘renaissance city,’ and a magnet for entrepreneurial development and talent attraction,” he said. “We want people from around the world to know about all of the positive things happening in our region.”
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Art paves the way for economic prosperity
New research reminds us that supporting the arts and culture sector accelerates local economic development and creates vibrant communities.
Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that the arts add value to the economy and local businesses, according to an Americans for the Arts poll. Another survey by the Conference Board and Americans for the Arts reports that 67 percent of businesses support the arts because of their economic impact.
People and businesses agree: creating a strong and vibrant arts community isn’t just nice, it makes economic sense. Simply put, arts and cultural organizations are businesses that invest in communities and grow economies.
A recent report published by Americans for the Arts explains the importance of arts and culture to commerce. For the report, titled Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Report (AEP5), researchers collected and analyzed data from nearly 15,000 organizations and more than 212,000 patrons to measure industry spending.
Typical attendees to an arts-focused event spend more than $31 each, not including admission costs. Collectively, consumption by those audiences sends more than $100 billion each year to local businesses in the United States. The economic impact is significant: supporting the arts means supporting 4.6 million jobs and generating $27.5 billion in government revenue, while also benefiting many business segments within a community.
Many arts supporters travel far and wide to attend performances, events and exhibits. In fact, 34 percent of said attendees live outside the county in which the event takes place. And 69 percent of these non-local attendees said their primary purpose for visiting a community was specifically to attend this arts/cultural event. When asked what they would be doing if the event being attended wasn’t taking place, 41 percent of local arts supporters said they would have traveled to another community for a similar type of event.
Perhaps what’s more astounding is that non-local attendees spend twice as much — $47.57 compared to $23.44 — as attendees from the local community. In short, that means opportunities are endless for local businesses to market a wider variety of goods and services to visiting arts supporters. When these events take place, restaurants see more customers, hotels have more visitors and retail stores have more foot traffic.
While typical non-local attendees spend almost $50 per event (not including admission costs) on average, visitors who book hotel rooms or reserve other accommodations for lodging spend more than $160 each, on average.
While supporting arts and culture, audiences also support local eateries of every variety, from fine dining restaurants to food trucks. About 54 cents of every dollar spent goes to culinary experiences.
And like hotels and restaurants, retailers benefit, too. From the purchase of gifts to souvenirs, one-fifth of every dollar spent by arts supporters goes to the local retail sector.
Transportation-related expenses account for $.10 of every dollar spent by arts supporters. This includes spending on mass transit, like subways, as well as ground transportation, such as taxis, buses and parking.
It’s easy to see how nearly every segment of a local economy benefits from a vibrant arts and culture scene. Art paves the way for economic prosperity. Additionally, art contributes to enhanced quality of life and creates unique cultural experiences.
By supporting arts and culture, chambers of commerce support restaurants, retailers, hotels and transit in the communities they serve. And, supporting arts means creating a more vibrant place for people in the community.
For more local and national data, check out the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 Report (AEP5), published by Americans for the Arts. Learn how can chambers of commerce can support the arts and culture sector at www.pARTnershipMovement.org.
Randy Cohen is vice president of research and policy and Emily Peck is vice president of private sector initiatives for Americans for the Arts.