Arts and culture impact Edmonds’ economy | City Corner

By Patrick Doherty | Feb 23, 2018

Last summer, I wrote about the beginning of a study the city commissioned on the economic impact of the arts and culture sector in the Edmonds economy.

Well, the results are in: the arts and culture sector supports Edmonds’ overall economic health and community vibrancy while strengthening the community’s regional image.

And there are at least 100 arts and culture-related organizations, programs and businesses in Edmonds serving a full range of residents and visitors.

What’s more, we have facts and figures to back up these conclusions. Through surveys of 1,354 arts and culture event-goers and/or online survey participants, as well as information gathered from 40 non- and for-profit arts and culture businesses, consultants were able to estimate a range of economic impact that the arts and culture sector generates.

As reported in a City Council briefing on Feb. 6, the estimated $19 million in direct revenues arts and culture organizations and businesses receive translates into over $50 million in economic impact to the Edmonds region, and up to 440 full-time jobs.

These figures derive from the ripple effect of economic impacts.

Here’s an example: The Edmonds Center for the Arts draws nearly 50,000 out-of-town visitors a year. Some ECA visitors enjoy drinks and a meal at a nearby restaurant, such as Salt & Iron. With this additional patronage, restaurants increase hours, hire more employees and pay higher wages.

ECA also hires additional staff to maintain its high-quality programming. These workers live in or nearby Edmonds and spend some of their wages at local businesses. And the cycle continues.

But there’s more at play than the quantifiable economic benefits from the arts and culture sector.

Arts and culture contribute noticeably to the bundle of amenities that make Edmonds an attractive place to live, work and visit. These amenities help sustain the quality of life Edmonds is known for.

And this quality of life in turn attracts new residents, new businesses and new and returning visitors, which helps bolster local property values and leads to an overall positive image of Edmonds within the greater region.

We also learned that Edmonds’ draw for out-of-town visitors encompasses an area defined by a 30-minute drive time that extends from Everett to the downtown Seattle and from Kingston to Bothell. While this may not be surprising, having these data will help the city, as well as local businesses, focus regional marketing efforts.

The data also may help us identify additional regional markets to pull from for greater visitor draw.

In addition to the facts and figures, the study included a “Story Collector” that Edmonds residents and visitors participated in, offering valuable anecdotal insight to the findings. The following two excerpts are representative of the information gleaned:

  • “I think people love the events and opportunities to enrich their hearts and souls through arts in Edmonds. They use the opportunity to relax and visit Edmonds, perusing shops, and eating out.”
  • “North Seattle, Bothell, Mukilteo – these folks all come to Edmonds for events and shows. People like to come here and take advantage of the performing arts and visit restaurants. There’s always something going on in Edmonds.”

The report concludes with a short list of high-level recommendations that could help promote, grow and capitalize on the arts and culture sector. They included:

  • Strengthen the arts and culture sector citywide in economic development efforts;
  • Integrate arts and culture’s contributions to the economy in new and existing community economic development efforts;
  • Collaborate to attract target audiences;
  • Work across the community to develop positive visitor experiences; and
  • Market Edmonds regionally and tier marketing investments and strategies.

As an outgrowth of the 2014 Community Cultural Plan, the Arts and Culture Economic Impact Study was conducted by BERK Consulting and AdvisArts of Seattle, under the direction of Arts and Culture Manager Frances White Chapin; Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite; and me.

In addition, the study benefitted from the invaluable advice and input of a 13-member Project Advisory Group, comprised of representatives of Edmonds’ civic, business and arts/culture communities.

Lastly, in order to share the study’s information more thoroughly with the public, as well as allow for comments and questions, the city invites the public to attend an open house 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, in the Plaza Room above the Edmonds Library, 650 Main Street.

The study is available online at

Patrick Doherty is Edmonds' Economic Development, Community Services director.





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