Durham’s creative economy healthy, report says

May. 16, 2013 @ 09:15 PM

Durham County remains a healthy place for the creative economy, according to a report released Thursday. Durham scored above the national average on the Creative Vitality Index. Creative jobs in the county also increased 22 percent from 2006 to 2011.

The figures were announced during an introductory session of the Creative Entrepreneur Expo, held at the Durham Arts Council. The expo included booths by vendors, and workshops on marketing, business planning and other aspects of entrepreneurship and the arts.

The Creative Vitality Index is a measure of the health of the creative economy in a locality, and encompasses the number of people employed in arts-related jobs, and public participation in the arts through sales of tickets, books, artwork and other items.

Durham scored 1.25 on the overall index, or 25 percent above the national average of 1. The number of creative jobs in Durham increased from 6,013 in 2006 to 7,335 in 2011, or 22 percent, according to the report. That number is about 5.4 percent of the total employment in Durham County, which is 134,263 jobs, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. The index defines creative jobs as everything from photographers to librarians to talent agents.

Statewide, the number of creative jobs increased more than 8 percent from 2006 to 2011, representing 137,225 jobs, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. The full creative industry in the state represents 320,000 jobs, or 6 percent of North Carolina’s workforce, the release stated.

The report shows that “creative workers did not lose jobs in the recession,” said Susan Kluttz, N.C. Secretary of Cultural Resources during an address at the expo. The arts have “risen to the challenge to become our new economic leader in North Carolina,” she said.

Kluttz, who was mayor of Salisbury for 14 years, said the arts involve more than just quality of life.

“What I learned in my 14 years was how the arts were a solution to the challenges we faced as a city,” she said. She cited economic development, gang prevention and improving race relations as issues where arts proved valuable.

Carl Nordgren, a creative entrepreneurship professor at Duke, and Chris Gergen, founder of Bull City Forward, spoke to the audience about the need to bridge the gap between creative thinkers and the private sector.

“You’re doing an extraordinary job of building this wonderful creative economy,” Nordgren said. He urged the audience to bring creative ideas and ways of thinking into other sectors, “because they badly need them.”

Gergen urged the audience to consider “how can you enhance your value to a larger set of shareholders.”

More companies will need collaborative thinking, making the creative economy “the wave of the future,” Gergen said.

The Creative Vitality Index is a tool created by the Western States Arts Federation, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve and support the arts. The Durham Arts Council commissioned the study with data compilation help from the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau.